The theme for this years World Wildlife Day is “Recovering key species for ecosystem restoration“. This includes highlighting the conservation status of critically endangered species of flora and fauna around the world and discussing potential solutions to protect them. To mark this we’re taking a look at conservation around the Commonwealth. Of course, there are conservation efforts ongoing in every Commonwealth country and it’s just not possible to discuss them all here. Therefore, we’ve handpicked eight countries with prominent conservation stories. However, if you’re interested in a particular location, let us know on social media and we will include it in our next post on this topic.
Overview of Conservation Around the Commonwealth
Conservation is important. It’s something that helps promote biodiversity through the protection of wildlife. It’s needed around the world and specifically throughout Commonwealth countries. There are many conservation projects ongoing in individual Commonwealth countries as we’ll se below. However, some conservation efforts require cross-border support and this is where the Commonwealth as a collective can be successful.
Ongoing and potential collaboration between Commonwealth member states enables greater conservation efforts. We only need to look as far as The Queens Commonwealth Canopy to see what cross-Commonwealth conservation collaboration can achieve. The QCC has created a network of forest conservation initiatives involving all 54 Commonwealth member nations.
Another recent example of conservation cross-collaboration is the excellent Commonwealth Blue Charter. The Charter looks to protect our oceans and includes areas on coral reef protection and restoration and marine protected areas. There are plenty of opportunities for wider Commonwealth conservation collaboration, member countries just need to take the opportunities presented to them. Hopefully, the recently proposed Living Lands Charter, which would include a focus on the conservation of biodiversity, can be adopted by all members.
Commonwealth Conservation Projects by Country
While certain issues will benefit from collaboration from multiple Commonwealth countries, other conservation efforts are unique to specific countries. To highlight some of these efforts throughout the Commonwealth the rest of this article will look at conservation efforts in the following countries: Barbados, Canada, India, Kenya, New Zealand, Singapore and the United Kingdom.
When people think of Barbados, few will think about the fate of the sea turtle. However, this majestic marine creature has been the focal point of conservation efforts for a long time. The Barbados Sea Turtle Project looks to “restore local marine turtle populations to levels at which they can fulfil their ecological roles”.
BSTP has been operating and protecting turtles since 1987. They prioritise partnerships in their work to connect Government, and non-governmental organizations and the tourism sector. They also feed into WIDECAST (Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Conservation Network) carrying out training workshops, turtle tagging and research.
Over 600 hawksbill turtles nest in Barbados each year. The BSTP look to facilitate this by providing nesting beach monitoring, in-water monitoring, rescue and rehabilitation and genetic analysis. Sea turtle conservation is much needed as the species is threatened by modern human living, rats, cats and even hurricanes.
Canada is home to a number of landscapes, ecosystems and habitats. Consequently, it’s also home to a number of species that are endangered and threatened. Therefore, there are numerous conservation efforts ongoing throughout the country. Many of these are led by or are in collaboration with Indigenous communities. This provides conservation efforts that are informed by local Indigenous knowledge and Western science in an inclusive manner.
For example, the Apoqnmatulti’k project is monitoring the movements and habitats of three species in Mi’kma’ki (now known as Atlantic Canada and the ancestral and unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq). The project tracks katew (American eel), jakej (American lobster) and punamu (Atlantic tomcod) with the aim of restoring the katew and punamu to their historic numbers while also understanding the jakej better to help preserve and protect the habitats it uses. The conservation project will provide many important insights about these species while also demonstrating how inclusive, equitable and respectful research and conservation can take place.
Another Indigenous-led conservation project in Canada is the proposed Mushkegowuk Marine Conservation Area. The 91,000 km2 conservation area would cover both the Weeneebeg (James Bay) and Washaybeyoh (Hudson Bay) protecting highly important ecosystems and habitats. The project has been proposed by the Omushkego, who have lived in the these areas before both bays obtained their Western names. If given the go ahead (the project is in the feasibility study stage) avian species such as the red-throated loon could benefit massively.
Like Canada, India covers an extremely vast territory that includes many areas in need of conservation, rewilding and restoration. Conservation projects and research have been ongoing through organisations such as the Nature Conservation Foundation and more recently, Rewilding India. However, in recent years one conservation story has taken the majority of the headlines in India…The return of the cheetah.
Cheetahs were originally abundantly found in India. However, as a result of generations of hunting they were finally ruled as being extinct in the country by the mid-twentieth century. It’s long be proposed that conservation efforts should refocus on reintroducing the cheetah back to India and it now looks like this is a real possibility.
Last year there were hopes the cheetah could be reintroduced by Christmas, however, this did not materialise. Despite this, efforts have continued and at the time of writing, Indian delegates are in South Africa discussing proposals to use South African cheetahs as a “founder stock“. The full plans hope to see 50 cheetahs reintroduced over the next 5 years which would be a remarkable achievement.
Kenya is already home to roughly 800-1200 cheetahs (c.2015), aided by organisations such as Action for Cheetahs. However, there are also many other conservation efforts ongoing throughout the country. These efforts are needed. A recent proposed change to Kenya’s legislation would mean forest protection would be reduced. This would put many species, both animal and plant, at risk.
Other conservation efforts in Kenya include attempts to protect the vulture. Since 2020, 65 “vulture volunteers” have been recruited and trained to help conservation of the vulture in Kenya. Using a citizen science approach the project has been successful. It’s taught the volunteers how to respond to incidents of wildlife poisoning, collect human-wildlife conflict data and spread awareness of the dangers of wildlife poisoning.
Another conservation project that’s ongoing in Kenya is one to protect the Yala Swamp. Yala Swamp is an extensive wetland area, the largest freshwater swamp in Kenya, and is extremely important to birds and biodiversity. The swamp has come under threat from development attempts and private investment in commercial agriculture. In fact, over 50% of the swamp has been allocated to a private investor. This is despite the community wishing to be involved in conservation of the swamp. Local community groups are continuing to protect the swamp and it’s inhabitants but development will also pose a risk.
Conservation projects can take many shapes and forms. One form is the nature reserve or sanctuary. In New Zealand, one ongoing conservation project has created a nature reserve that has a 500-year plan to restore it to the levels it was at prior to human influence.
Zealandia Te Māra a Tāne, as it’s known, is a fully-fenced urban ecosanctuary that aims to restore a Wellington valley’s forest and freshwater ecosystems to their pre-human state. This is because since human arrival in New Zealand a number of species have become extinct, including:
- 51 bird species
- 3 frog species
- 3 lizard species
- 1 freshwater fish species
- 1 bat species
- 4 plant species
- And a number of invertebrate species
Therefore, the sanctuary is surrounded by a predator-preventing fence to deter invasive and predator species. To date, the sanctuary has been extremely successful. It’s already reintroduced 18 species of native wildlife. Some of these species have been absent from New Zealand for around 1000 years. Zealandia is a unique type of conservation. It’s ambitious but it’s success speaks for itself.
In Singapore, there’s been a focus on the conservation of the the critically endangered Negros Bleeding-Heart Dove. It’s believed that only 50-249 exist in the wild demonstrating how precarious their fate is. However, last year a collaborative project was set up between Singapore’s Jurong Bird Park and Mandai Nature. The project became the only project for the Negros Bleeding-Heart Down outside of it’s native country, the Philippines.
Since the arrival of the birds, three chicks have been born demonstrating the success of the conservation project. When they’re able, it’s planned that the birds will be returned to the Philippines where they can be released to the wild to help boost numbers in the wild.
Our final stop around Commonwealth conservation projects is the UK. Conservation efforts around the UK cover a lot of different species and ecosystems. One aspect of conservation in the UK is the concept of reintroducing species who had become extinct. Two popular species that are always discussed in these conversations are the Eurasian Lynx and Wolf.
However, a third species has already been reintroduced across the UK with huge success…the beaver. Since reintroduction began, the wild beaver population around the UK has soared. In doing so, many ecosystems have benefitted. Beavers help to create wetlands and new environments that benefit other threatened species.
The UK is not stopping there though. In 2022 there are plans to reintroduce a number of different species, including:
- North Pool Frogs
- Large Marsh Grasshoppers
- Dwarf Pansies
- Native Oysters
- Sphagnum Mosses
Conservation Around the Commonwealth: Looking Forward
As you can see, successful projects relating to conservation around the Commonwealth are ongoing. They are happening all across the Commonwealth. In doing so, they are protecting different species and different ecosystems. Each conservation story is unique yet each is just as important as the one before.
Unfortunately, as the world feels the impacts of the ongoing climate crisis more conservation efforts will be needed. Luckily, each of these stories brings hope that something can done. Each Commonwealth country can play it’s part and together cross-border collaborations can lead the way in conserving species that otherwise could be lost forever.
Therefore, looking forward, Commonwealth countries can lead the way in conservation and rewilding efforts. Good progress has already been made but much more can be done!
Support World Wildlife Day!
This post was inspired by the theme of this years World Wildlife Day. There are many things you can do to support World Wildlife Day this year:
- Share this article so more people know of ongoing conservation efforts around the Commonwealth
- Watch the World Wildlife Day celebration live stream at 14:00 CET
- Take part in the discussion on social media using #WWD2022, #RecoverKeySpecies, #worldwildlifeday