“I really like the way you approach the work, with scientific rigor but also passion and empathy.”
Rebecca Patton, Wildlife Conservation Network
We have a long-term approach to conservation and have been working inside the Niassa Reserve since 2003. Our main focus is on the African lion but we work to conserve all carnivores in Niassa. Our small team is almost exclusively Mozambican (other than Colleen and Keith Begg) with a focus on hiring and training Niassa residents and mentoring young Mozambican conservationists.
Our aim is to build a sustainable “lion friendly” community, working in close collaboration with the Mozambican management authority, local communities and tourism operators. All of our work is community-based, and encompasses environmental education, reducing human-carnivore conflict in its various forms and providing skills training, alternative incomes and increased food security. We consider everyone a participant, with a particular focus on children in the 9 to 11-year-old age group, local hunters, women, teachers, and spiritual and traditional leaders. We believe in a small ecological footprint, collaboration at all levels, and in small successes that can be scaled up through working with other conservation agencies and partners.
Our work is as much about people as it is about lions and other carnivores. While our work is based on sound research and monitoring, research is seen as a tool not an end goal. The end goal must be to find and implement sustainable solutions to threats.
We have a four-pronged approach:
- Targeted and pragmatic research and monitoring to understand the threats, find solutions and assess their effectiveness;
- Testing and implementation of specific solutions to reduce threats;
- Community outreach and education to share what we have learned, provide assistance and build goodwill for conservation;
- Mentorship and capacity-building of local communities and conservationists
In addition to carnivores, we focus on the environmental education and well-being of the people of Niassa. Villages inside the Reserve support more than 35,000 people who live a subsistence lifestyle with little food security, high levels of poverty, poor health care and low levels of employment.
Conservation must provide tangible, real benefits from conservation for local communities if it is to be successful. Our priority must be on developing sustainable, locally derived ways to keep people safe from attack by lions and other carnivores. In addition environmental education and equitable revenue sharing can build tolerance. A multifaceted, holistic and adaptive approach that monitors success and failure is essential.
We believe in collaboration at all levels, and in small successes that can be scaled up with other conservation agencies. Conservation is a process not an end goal.