Protecting species cuts poverty: study

PUBLISHED : Monday, 10 April, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 10 April, 2006, 12:00am

Saving pandas, gorillas or tigers is not just about protecting an endangered species from extinction, but also about reducing poverty and improving the lives of local communities, according to a report released by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).

The report, 'People and Species: Linked Futures', is based on six case studies. It shows that environmental activities carried out by WWF have helped eradicate poverty and hunger, as well as promote sustainable development in rural areas of countries such as China, Nepal and India.

The case studies indicate that the conservation and sustainable management of endangered species and their habitats means better protection of forests, freshwater and marine areas.

As a result, poor people in rural areas who depend on these natural resources will have more access to the goods and services they provide. This not only increases income, but also improves access to fresh water, health and education. Women's rights, too, get a boost in the process.

Moreover, ecotourism projects based on the observation of species in the wild - such as pandas, marine turtles and mountain gorillas - generate significant amounts of money for communities. A good knowledge of species and their habitats can lead to sustainable land use.

'Very often the issues that threaten species are the same as those that contribute to poverty, such as loss of habitats and natural resources,' said WWF's global species programme director Susan Lieberman.

'This report provides evidence that when endangered species benefit, people benefit as well.'

For example, on the mainland, illegal activities in forest reserves declined when communities found alternative sources of income through WWF projects, including farming and raising livestock.

'It seems illogical that billions of dollars are being spent to reduce poverty and promote sustainable economic development without looking at the links between sustainable development, a healthy environment and species conservation,' added Dr Lieberman. 'Now is the time to make that link and act upon it.'

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