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Creating a global network of biodiversity champions

Environment Programme / Partner story

Photo courtesy of Nuestros Espacios Protegidos

In a remote corner of land-locked Zimbabwe lies Gonarezhou National Park, 5,053 square kilometres of pristine, protected wilderness known as the “Place of the Elephants.” It is here, among thousands of elephants and hundreds of other unique animal and plant species, that a very special field-based leadership course took place.

Novice and veteran conservationists gathered from around the world to take part in a training initiative facilitated by Nuestros Espacios Protegidos (NEP), a Spain-based campaign to spread awareness about the importance of protected areas, and the Frankfurt Zoological Society. These conservationists work for African Parks, Australian Wildlife Conservancy, Frankfurt Zoological Society, and Rewilding Argentina, top organisations which together, manage 30 million hectares of wild areas. The ten-day course covered nuanced and practical principles of managing effective biodiversity conservation projects.

The diversity of countries represented, the varying experience levels of the participants, and the course’s location in one of Africa’s most successful conservation projects made it the perfect setting for learning and exchanging ideas.

“The idea was to combine experience and human resources, identify people working in conservation projects, and train them to the next level to become effective conservation leaders that can manage complex problems and human teams,” says Ignacio Jiménez, coordinator of NEP and the course.

The course was made even more special by the breadth of topics covered, all of which are essential to forming effective conservationist teams. Participants learned from each other, local park rangers, team-building experts, and veteran conservationists from around the globe, creating an expansive, in-depth curriculum.

“For successful conservation training, you need to combine ecological science with political knowledge, psychological knowledge, organisational knowledge, almost anthropology, and managing different cultures,” says Jiménez, coordinator of NEP and the course.

As the course participants are actively working in their respective countries, including Argentina, Australia, Brazil, five African countries, and Germany, they began their coursework remotely for several months before the field experience. These shared in-person and virtual experiences have formed a truly unique global network of conservationists, equipped to collectively confront the ecological challenges of the future.

“Right now, these people are going back to their countries inspired and trained,” says Jimenez, “What we are doing is the equivalent of sending lots of seeds to different continents, from which I think some of the best conservation programmes are going to flow in the future.”

Biodiversity conservation, which involves protecting and preserving the diversity of life on our planet, is a key pillar of environmental protection. But despite growing awareness, international political will, and significant resources going to protect biodiversity, managing effective conservation projects can be a challenge. This inspired Jiménez and a team to create the Effective Conservation Cooperative training initiative, a practice-based training for team leaders in conservation. Watch the video below to learn more about the eye-opening experiences of the group in Gonarezhou National Park, Zimbabwe.

Oak Foundation supports the Effective Conservation Cooperative training initiative, Nuestros Espacios Protegidos, and the Frankfurt Zoological Society through our Environment Programme, specifically the Regenerative Landscapes sub-Programme. This sub-Programme partners with organisations working to restore and rewild degraded landscapes for the benefit of both people and wildlife. You can read more about the strategy and work of our Environment Programme here.