Over the past four years Russ and I have visited with dozens of people who do wildlife conservation in Africa. They’re involved in rescue rehab, anti-poaching, human-wildlife-conflict, activism, and education. Some are young some older. Some very experienced and others not. Some are successful and others less so.
As we have revisited and kept track of many of these dedicated people we’ve seen a few common factors.
Three factors seem to be essential for sustained success in wildlife conservation in Africa.
#1 – Create an effective team
At the turn of the century I worked as a management consultant. My specialty was team building. I helped individual assess what type of structure suited them. For some being the boss surrounded by team players was best. For others a partnership was a better fit. While for a certain few, going it alone, while outsourcing certain tasks was most productive.
When it comes to successful wildlife conservation it seems that the type of team structure is less important, but having a team is crucial. Starting with the board of directors or trustees to networking with other organizations. From developing a loyal volunteer base to training up reliable staff.
To grow in effectiveness and influence it takes a wide range of talents, skills and expertise. Wise leaders know what their strengths and weaknesses are. Wise leaders have a vision. Wise leaders aren’t afraid to surround themselves with individuals that can help them accomplish that vision. Wise leaders trust their team players and don’t micro manage. Wise leaders bring the team together to communicate, plan and strategize often. Wise leaders focus on results while growing individuals. Wise leaders know the road to success is fraught with failure.
Leading a team is challenging, yet like in most ventures crucial to successful wildlife conservation in Africa.
#2 – Support local authorities
Despite the corruption, apathy, or lack of knowledge navigating the way to work with local governments, officials and law enforcement is key. Sure the frustrations are many. The obstacles daunting. However, for long term success focusing on the common goal to preserve wildlife must remain paramount. Sure, the officials may have hidden agendas and not really care about the wildlife. However, it is their job. And most of us humans get a sense of satisfaction when we do our job well. When we get the praise of others.
To grow in effectiveness and influence takes the involvement of local authorities, at times on a national even international level. Wise leaders communicate with local
authorities with an attitude of cooperation. Wise leaders don’t demean others. Wise leaders find ways to make the ‘other guy’ look good. Wise leaders find ways to bring local authorities together for the common good. Wise leaders work within the frame work of the law. Wise leaders help local authorities follow the law. Wise leaders know this process is fraught with frustration, but stay focused on the long term results… to save wildlife.
Working with local authorities may be time consuming and take loads of patience, yet when officials realize you are sincere many doors can open to benefit wildlife.
#3 – Tap into consistent funding
Paying staff, keeping animals fed and housed properly, along with paying for ever rising fuel costs are daunting challenges for most small operations doing wildlife conservation in Africa. Tapping into a sufficient, consistent source of funding is key to long term survival.
In today’s competitive arena it is not easy for the small organizations. The large wildlife conservation operations have a large marketing budget to reach out globally. For the small NGO’s tapping into a loyal group of targeted donors seems effective. For some this is via the social media. For others its funding organizations. While a solid paying base of volunteers works for some. No matter where the funding comes from, in most cases it takes time to build.
One important key appears to be… success breeds success. Most people want to be part of something that instills hope. As humans we can only be involved with desperate situations for so long. This of course creates a big problem, as much of wildlife conservation involves heartbreaking situations. Wise leaders fashion a message of hope around their cause. Wise leaders help donors and supporters feel needed and valuable. Wise leaders know how to build fund raising programs that grab the heart. Wise leaders know how to keep supporters involved over time. Wise leaders never lose sight of the end goal… to save wildlife.
Creating, what Russ calls, a retail arm works for some. However, the danger is that catering to the whims of customers may shift the focus from conservation to money making. (For example: A Rescue Rehabilitation Center opens its doors to the public. Soon animals are kept instead of released so paying visitors keep coming.)
Staying focused on wildlife conservation is crucial for those engaged in this work. Equally important is for the rest of us to donate, to provide that stable funding base.
Helping is easy…
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