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Inclusive conservation: local communities at the center

One Health is an approach that acknowledges the interconnectedness of human health to the health of animals, plants, and the environment. One Health is closely tied to conservation, as conservation is literally the care of our natural resources. Today, the natural resources on Earth are being degraded by the expansion of humans to all corners of the planet. A key factor leading to this degradation is the alterations of natural environments for human use. These ecological alterations reduce natural habitat for wildlife and bring humans and animals closer together. Some of the outcomes of this closer contact are conflict between humans and animals, exploitation of wildlife and their parts, and the rise of zoonotic disease spread. But even as we are faced with these challenges, there is hope as there are conservation champions who are working to mitigate these alterations and preserve the integrity of ecosystems while improving the lives of indigenous (local) communities. 

One way this is happening is through inclusive conservation, which puts humans at the center of the work, leading to effective solutions that benefit humans, wildlife, and wild places.  These solutions are driven by the indigenous people, giving ownership to them to manage their own local resources as well as build up their communities. Not only is this the right thing to do, but it also is the sustainable solution as outside efforts, with little to no community involvement, have proven to be unsustainable. 

Zoo Atlanta supports inclusive conservation projects in countries all over the planet. Each one of these projects is driven by local peoples and involves a wide range of local and global partners in generating sustainable resources. One such partner is Lion Guardians, whose mission is to implement sustainable solutions that allow humans and lions to coexist. Collaborating with local peoples, such as the Maasai, they build trust as they are engaging and training these local individuals to mitigate human-lion conflict. This collaboration with local communities in some cases is turning those who used to kill lions into their protectors. Since starting in 2006, Lion Guardians has expanded to multiple countries in Africa and with their local community partners are working to protect lions on close to 1 million acres. 

You too can participate in inclusive conservation in your own backyard. Visit Zoo Atlanta’s Go Green page to learn how you can be active in improving the health of local environments for humans and wildlife. 

Michelle Kolar
Vice President of Education

Connect With Your Wild Side #onlyzooatl