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Insurance, compensation may help mitigate human-wildlife conflicts, experts say

"These schemes need to be applied on a much bigger scale," explained leading scientist Terry Sunderland.
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Photo courtesy of Terry Sunderland

BOGOR, Indonesia (27 January, 2012)_As millions of the poor in Africa and Asia live in or near forests, governments need to apply insurance policies or compensation mechanisms for crop damage, livestock loss, and personal injuries in order to mitigate the incidences and impacts of conflicts between human and wildlife, conservation experts recommend.

Such schemes should be part of human-wildlife conflict prevention and response measures integrated into national and regional land use policies and regulations, agreed the participants of a workshop entitled “Linking Great Ape Conservation and Poverty Alleviation: Sharing Experience from Africa and Asia”. The event was held in the campus of the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) on 11-13 January.

There have been some small scale insurance schemes initiated by NGOs, for example the Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conservation (IRDNC) in Namibia, to cover crop damage from wildlife attacks. “These schemes need to be applied on a much bigger scale and supported by the national and local governments, however, monitoring and evaluation of alleged cases of wildlife destruction of crops for example needs to be thoroughly verified before compensation payments” said Terry Sunderland, a senior scientist at CIFOR.

Humans and great apes basically are forced into conflict situations as land use changes to accommodate ever growing human populations and plantation expansions shrink existing forests to mere fragments. Moreover, most of these primates – gorillas, chimpanzees and bonobos in Africa and orangutans in Asia – live in forests near communities living in poverty, which can often further increase the pressure on remaining forests.

Participants of the workshop plan to develop a series of best practice guidelines linking great ape conservation to poverty alleviation and draw up policy briefs detailing their recommendations on human-wildlife conflict mitigation, conservation under REDD+, and ecotourism. About 55 experts, policy makers and conservation practitioners, mostly from Africa and Asia, took part in the event, which aims to share lessons on the conservation and management of great apes and the habitats where they live on the two continents.

“The good part (of the event) was that you went to the field, talked with the people” and had a chance to see the realities of orangutan conservation and ecotourism on the ground, which was very different with those involving the African great apes, said Antoine Mudakikwa from Rwanda Development Board. Participants visited research site managed by the Centre for International Cooperation in Sustainable Management of Tropical Peatland (CIMTROP), Sebangau National Park, where the workshop participants planted indigenous trees and Kaja Island, the home of rehabilitated orangutans soon to be released into a conservation concession in Central Kalimantan.

Another recommendation from the workshop was for governments and project developers to adopt and implement biodiversity and social safeguards to ensure ape conservation is a direct co-benefit of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+), a climate scheme that brings fresh funds to compensate developing countries for keeping their forests. Still, policymakers should not rely on REDD+ as the solution to financing ape conservation, acknowledged the participants.

In terms of ecotourism as a way to conserve great apes, the participants recommended that tourist visits should comply with the IUCN best practice guidelines. Efforts to promote ecotourism to generate income and alleviate poverty should ensure that equitable benefit-sharing mechanisms are in place so that local people can equitably benefit from such initiatives, the participants said.

The workshop was the second of a series on “Great Apes and Poverty Linkages”, organized under the auspices of the Poverty and Conservation Learning Group (PCLG), and the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), with financial support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), United States Fish and Wildlife (USFW), the Arcus Foundation and the Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP). The event was hosted by CIFOR and the Forestry Research and Development Agency (FORDA) of Indonesia’s Ministry of Forestry.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oEEecmwixwc&feature=plcp&context=C366cc86UDOEgsToPDskK50_GTTHynsjEiB8PdpafO

Visit the workshop’s page to watch videos of presentations from the experts, read related blog stories and see pictures from the event and field trip to Central Kalimantan, Indonesia.

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