WWF works in more than 100 countries. To effectively achieve our conservation mission, we work within the legal framework and local realities of these culturally diverse places. One lesson we have learned in 50 years of conservation work is that local people who rely on and manage natural resources to support their livelihoods have a deep and nuanced understanding of the importance of careful stewardship. We do not seek to cordon nature off from people. Our mission is a world in which people and nature both prosper, where they thrive together.
For these reasons, many of WWF’s conservation efforts are based on the sustainable use of natural resources. For instance, we know that timber and seafood are vitally important to people, and we work to create and implement effective, innovative ways for making the most efficient use of these resources and ensuring their continued robust supply. In some places, sustainable natural resource use may include locally managed, responsible hunting. WWF is not opposed to hunting programs that present no threat to the survival of threatened species and, where such species are involved, are part of a demonstrated conservation and management strategy that is scientifically based, properly managed, and strictly enforced, with revenues and benefits going back into conservation and local communities. We have seen in specific circumstances where strong standards are in place, that such programs can reduce poaching, lead to species population growth and recovery, provide valuable income to local communities for conservation and development projects, and provide incentives for communities to engage in wildlife conservation for the long-term.
The emphasis here is on the creation of incentives for communities to live with wildlife and strict enforcement of strong management standards. For example, in Namibia, the national government in 1996 enacted legislation to conserve the country’s wildlife by giving communities regulated rights for the management and sustainable use of local wildlife populations within areas known as communal conservancies. Local communities and species have benefited from this innovative and popular conservation approach through the creation of new jobs, additional food, and diversified livelihoods – thereby creating incentives for communities to protect local wildlife populations and to conserve the habitat such populations depend upon.
In the case of Namibia, several species populations, including elephants, black rhinos, and lions have rebounded remarkably – with communal conservancies driving or playing a significant role in these conservation gains. In fact, the black rhino population in northwest Namibia has more than tripled since 1982, making it the largest population of free-roaming rhinos in the world. Namibia now boasts the largest free-roaming black rhino and cheetah populations in the world, and is believed to be the only country in Africa where giraffe and lion populations are expanding in both numbers and range.