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Civil wars are frequent in lesser-developed nations, wherein is harbored a disproportionate share of the world's biodiversity. These wars have had serious detrimental effects, direct and indirect, on conservation programs. From 2001 to 2005, we conducted site visits, personal interviews, and document searches bearing upon this problem as exemplified by Nepal's ongoing Maoist insurgency. Cases of insurgents usurping full control of several protected areas have come to light, as has a rapid increase in poaching and illicit wildlife trade nation-wide. Staff and infrastructure of conservation agencies and non-governmental organizations have been attacked. The Nepalese situation invites reassessment of traditional “fortresses-and-fines” conservation strategies as well as more modern “community-based” approaches that require local governmental offices to remain functional. Also called into question is the role of military force in the protection of parks and reserves. In times of civil strife, we conclude, robust conservation may most likely be achieved by nongovernmental organizations that are politically neutral and financially independent.
We contend that humans, as living organisms, evolved to sequester resources to maximize reproductive success, and that many basic aspects of human behaviour reflect this evolutionary history. Much of the environment with which we currently deal is evolutionarily novel, and much behaviour which is ultimately not in our own interests, persists in this novel environment. Environmentalists frequently stress the need for ‘sustainable development’, however it is defined (see Redclift, 1987), and we contend that a knowledge of how humans are likely to behave with regard to resource use, and therefore a knowledge of what kinds of programmes are likely to work in any particular situation, is necessary to achieve sustainability. Specifically, we predict that issues which are short-term, local, and/or acute, such as an immediate health-risk, will be much easier to solve than issues which are broad, and which affect individuals other than ourselves, our relatives, and our friends. The bigger the issue is, the less effective is likely to be the response. Hence, the biggest and most troublesome ecological issues will be the most difficult to solve — inter alia because of our evolutionary history as outlined above.
This may not appear to bode well for the future of the world; for example, Molte (1988) contends that there are several hundred international environmental agreements in place, but Carroll (1988) contends that, in general, none of them is particularly effective if the criterion for effectiveness is a real solution to the problem. There are countless examples of ‘aggressors’ (those nations causing the problem) not complying with an agreement, slowing its ratification, or reducing its effectiveness (e.g. the US versus Canada, or Great Britain versus Sweden, with regard to acid rain legislation: Fig. 1, cf. Bjorkbom, 1988). The main problem in these cases is that the costs are externalized and hence discounted by those receiving the benefits of being able to pollute. Any proposed change is bound to conflict with existing social structures, and negotiations necessarily involve compromise in a quid pro quo fashion (Brewer, 1980). We contend, along with Caldwell (1988) and Putnam (1988), that nations are much too large to think of as individual actors in these spheres. Interest groups within nations can affect ratification of international environmental treaties; for example, automobile industry interests versus those of environmental NGOs in the USA on the acid rain issue. It may even be that our evolutionary history is inimical to the entire concept of the modern nation state.
Barring major, global, socio-political upheaval, we suggest that a knowledge of the evolution of resource use by humans can be used to solve at least some resource-related problems in modern industrial societies. In some cases, these can probably be solved with information alone, and in other cases, the problems can probably be solved by playing on our evolutionary history as social reciprocators; environmental problems which tend to be relatively local and short-term may be solvable in these ways. Economic incentives can provide solutions to many other types of problems by manipulating the cost and benefits to individuals. We suggest that broader, large-scale environmental problems are much more difficult to solve than narrower, small-scale ones, precisely because humans have evolved to discount such themes; stringent regulations and the formation of coalitions, combined with economic incentives to use alternatives and economic disincentives (fines) not to do so, may be the only potential solutions to some major, transboundary environmental issues.
In preparing this argument, we have reviewed literature from many scholarly fields well outside the narrow scope of our expertise in behavioural ecology and wildlife conservation. Our reading of many works from anthropology, economics, political science, public policy, and international development, will doubtless seem naïve and simplistic to practitioners of those fields, and solving all environmental problems will ultimately take expertise from all of these fields and more. In general, however, we have found agreement for many of our ideas from these disparate disciplines, but much of their literature does not allow for a rigorous, quantitative hypothesis-testing approach to analysing the main thesis presented here — an approach that we, as scientists, would encourage. We hope to challenge people interested in environmental issues from many perspectives, to consider our arguments and find evidence, pro or con, so that we (collectively) may come closer to a better analysis of, and ultimately to solutions for, our most pressing environmental problems.
Park-people interactions in Kosi Tappu Wildlife Reserve, located in the lowlands of Southeastern Nepal, were studied intensively over a two-years' period from 1986 to 1988, through a variety of economic and attitu-dinal surveys. The Reserve had been established for the conservation of wild Water Buffalo and migratory waterfowl, and protects some of the most important wetland habitat in Nepal; it is therefore vital for the conservation of biodiversity on a national and regional level. The results showed that people in the area are dependent on the Reserve for the collection of grasses etc. which they use as building materials, while the Reserve provides fish which are sold cheaply in local markets. Other products, such as fuel-wood, edible and medicinal plants, and seeds, are occasionally collected legally in the Reserve.
Despite the measurable benefits, attitudes about the Reserve are generally poor in the region, at least among local inhabitants who do not understand its main raisons d'être. The best predictors of attitudes were the caste or ethnic group and the literacy rate of the family of the respondent, and not the socio-economic standing of, or the direct cost to, the respondent due to crop damage by wildlife. These results suggest that religious inculcation, societal discrimination, and education, may all play a role in shaping attitudes and therefore influencing park-people relations. Short-term solutions to park-people conflicts should include more education and extension programmes on the part of the Reserve's management, and legal efforts to return at least some control to local villages.
Several lines of evidence suggest that humans may be sensitive to the scale at which environmental problems occur, and that humans perceive to be more urgent those environmental problems that happen over relatively shorttime duration and at relatively local-spatial scales, compared with those that happen over greater spans of time and space. If this is true, then solutions to environmental problems should be planned accordingly: i.e. incentive-based strategies to promote some type of conservation may be more easily implemented, and most appropriately socially-based, for environmental problems that occur at the smaller societal scales. For those that occur at the larger societal scales, incentive-based strategies may be most appropriately economically-based, and are likely to be more difficult to implement, than the socially-based ones at the smaller societal scales.
This theory is explored in the context of municipal solid wastes. There is some support for the general arguments in that various types of economic incentives have been effective in reducing household wastes across the scale of cities, and some more socially-based incentives appear to be effective in small town/neighbourhood settings, though much work on these issues remains to be done.
Coexisting with Large Carnivores: Lessons from Greater
Yellowstone. T. W. Clark, M. B. Rutherford, and D. Casey, eds. 2005.
Island Press, Washington, DC. 290 pp. $60.00 hardcover, $30.00
Large mammalian predators form a basis for much conservation research
for several reasons. As a group, they are land dependent and thus more
extinction prone than most other organisms, can frequently serve as both
flagship and umbrella species, and they are scary. The last has inspired
mythologies from cultures worldwide. For any conservation issue and any
species of concern, it is well accepted that science alone, while
essential, will not solve the core of the problem. The crux of decline and
endangerment lies in species' interactions with humans and thus,
solutions will necessarily involve input from the social and policy
sciences. Tim Clark has built his professional career on the last point,
and it is an important one. Yellowstone National Park itself is a symbol,
as are the three large predators that inhabit its vastness: grizzlies
(Ursus arctos), wolves (Canis lupus), and cougars
(Felis concolor). For some, these species are symbols of a
healthy wilderness and an irreplaceable natural heritage; for others, they
are symbols of horror and death. To many Americans, they may symbolize
both. To an unfortunately large degree, previous federal eradication
policies were so successful that the first two of the species are
federally listed in all areas except Alaska, and the third (the cougar) is
listed in Florida, the only Eastern state with a remnant wild population.
Predators color our fears and inspire our hearts, but they also present
unique and fascinating issues for conservationists and conservation
Various conservation models have been implemented in Nepal since 1973, however their impacts on resources use and conservation attitudes are scarcely known. To address the hypothesis that conservation attitudes should improve around protected areas (PAs) with more social and economic interventions, stratified random questionnaire surveys of 234 households were conducted in two PAs in the Western Terai of Nepal: Bardia National Park (BNP), in which interventions have been more widespread for longer time periods, and Sukla Phanta Wildlife Reserve (SWR), in which interventions are relatively recent. Both are part of a major landscape-level conservation programme under implementation in Nepal, and both are under threat of political turmoil, uncontrolled immigration, inefficient land reform policies and unsustainable resource use. There was spatio-temporal variability in resource use patterns and dependence. People collected eight and seven types of resources in BNP and SWR, respectively, and people in BNP were more dependent on resources overall. About 72% of respondents mentioned the problem of inadequate firewood, and suggested the promotion of alternative energy and permission to collect from PAs as mitigating strategies. Of 11 attitude statements, five significantly differed between the two areas. Respondents from the BNP had more favourable attitudes about conservation than those from SWR, supporting the main hypothesis. Training received by respondents, damage by wildlife, dependence on resources and satisfaction towards user groups contributed significantly to the variation in conservation attitudes. The results suggest that the liberalization of PA management has enabled the use of resources, improved livelihoods to some extent and solicited more favourable conservation attitudes in Nepal.
We censused wild buffalo Bubalus arnee in Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve, Nepal, in March 2004 using methods employed in earlier surveys, and estimated a population of 159 animals. Since the last census in 2000 the management situation has deteriorated. Guard posts have been evacuated due to the Maoist insurgency. The entire Army Battalion usually posted in the Reserve was at Headquarters at the time of this study and therefore there were no patrols over most of the Reserve, and much human encroachment. Mortality from flooding and road deaths, and possibly poaching for meat, were evident, and males suffered more mortality overall than females. Despite these threats the population had increased since 2000, albeit at a lower rate than previously. Active management, including interventions within the Reserve and a translocation of some individuals to Chitwan National Park, are recommended.
Tiger Bone & Rhino Horn: The Destruction of Wildlife for
Traditional Chinese Medicine. R. Ellis. 2005. Shearwater Books of
Island Press, Washington, DC. 294 pp. $17.99 cloth.
Richard Ellis, a research associate at the American Museum of Natural
History and celebrated author and artist, presents an intriguing and
(quite unfortunately) timely and relevant look at a major cause of the
loss of many species worldwide: Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). The
volume is meant for lay readers with interests in natural history and
conservation, and the prose is, thankfully, devoid of technical jargon.
Yet the information is up-to-date and comprehensive enough to offer
something new for those of us who have looked at various aspects of Asian
wildlife markets professionally.
Protected areas have been an integral part of contemporary nature
protection for about a century and a half. One of the most interesting
protected area networks was designed in the Union of Soviet Socialist
Republics (USSR). Here, we present a case study of the history of a
particular state nature reserve (or zapovednik) in Kyrgyzstan,
using key informant interviews and reviews of current and historical
documents. We examine the management of this area from the time of its
creation under Soviet rule, through the collapse of the USSR, to the
present day. We also make policy recommendations for the future, given the
profound changes in the post-Soviet economy and political structure. We
conclude that the collapse of the USSR has inflicted numerous changes on
the environmental protection sector in Kyrgyzstan, but that the Issyk-Kul
Nature Reserve continues to be run according to the Soviet paradigm, with
a few minor adjustments. Funding structures and mechanisms for the support
of conservation and other environmental issues are of paramount importance
in the changing economic climate and democratization throughout the former
USSR. Our work can be used as a template for studying protected areas in
the region and lays the groundwork for more comparative research that
could be carried out in and around Kyrgyzstan's other protected areas
and those in other republics of the former USSR.
Environmental Politics and Policy, 6th Edition. Walter A.
Rosenbaum. 2005. CQ Press, Washington, DC. 366 pp. $44.95 paperback.
The Sixth Edition of Walter A. Rosenbaum's much-used volume is a
necessary update for several reasons, not the least of which is the
insight provided throughout on the environmental policy impacts of the G.
W. Bush administration. Continuing changes in environmental indicators,
the effects (or lack thereof) of public opinion on environmental policies,
and the emergence of new issues as we learn more about our effects upon
the environment justify this important update. In all cases, Rosenbaum,
Professor Emeritus at the University of Florida and Visiting Professor at
the University of Michigan, has done a masterful job at keeping the older
material intact while bringing in the new.
United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). 2004. UNEP, Nairobi,
Kenya. 208 pp. $20 paperback.
The United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) held its 22nd
Governing Council in early 2003 and decided at that meeting to prepare an
annual Global Environmental Outlook statement. The statement's
purpose is to “highlight significant environmental events and
achievements during the year and raise awareness of emerging issues from
scientific research and other sources,” according to Klaus Topfer,
the Executive Director of UNEP. This slim yet useful Yearbook is
the Program's response to that decision. Its primary goal is to make
new environmental information accessible in a timely fashion and bridge
gaps between environmental science and policy. After an explanatory
preface, UNEP sets forth a global overview followed by a series of
chapters that are geographically focused.
The modern era of wildlife and protected area conservation in Nepal began in 1973 with the passage of comprehensive legislation, and has evolved very quickly as new priorities and problems have emerged. Here we explore the legal and managerial development of conservation areas, a recently-defined category of protected area designed to promote conservation through local-level participation and development. A review of the Conservation Area Management Regulations of 1996 shows that there are several potential problems inherent in this designation. As written, the regulations move power from the government to organizations under governmental contract. Thus, management authority largely remains top-down from the standpoint of local users. We also question how well the designation will protect some sensitive wildlife species, since organizations do not have law enforcement authority under Nepalese legislation.
Despite these concerns, there have been several successful conservation area programmes in existence in Nepal since the 1980s and most of the issues addressed are surmountable with the current regulations, providing that several criteria are met. We propose that His Majesty's Government and organizations under contract develop more definitive methods of disbursing funds for local-level projects, and institute social impact assessments. In addition, more attention must be paid to wildlife law enforcement; independent assessments of important wild populations and unique habitats are needed. Finally, we discuss some broader issues that should be better addressed in Nepal and elsewhere, including cross-sectoral coordination within the government.
Nepal has a number of wetlands in the lowland region of the country along the southern Indo-Nepalese border that have experienced great pressures from growing human populations due in part to migration of people from the mountains. A questionnaire survey and informal interviews with key informants in 1998 were used to explore the socio-economic status of indigenous and non-indigenous inhabitants, use patterns of forest and wetland resources and attitudes about conservation in Ghodaghodi Lake, a proposed Ramsar site, in the lowlands of western Nepal. Tharus, indigenous to the region, represented 33% of the population; the rest were migrants from the mountains. Tharus had lower literacy rates, larger landholdings and kept different livestock species. Most Tharu families were dependent on extraction from wetlands; all groups used forests for fuelwood but mountain settlers used forests for fodder more than did Tharus. Most respondents expressed willingness to participate in the conservation of Ghodaghodi Lake; however, only 12%, mostly mountain settlers, had ever participated in formal conservation activities. Conservation attitudes were strongly influenced by educational level and resource use. Educated males of higher caste and mountain origin who had previously participated in formal management activities were more positive towards conservation than other groups. There is a need to implement a participatory integrated management plan, to include community development, education and off-farm income generation, to assure participation of Tharus and lower caste households of mountain origin in the conservation and management of wetlands and forests in the area.
As a result of increased awareness about the nature and extent of park-people conflicts in Nepal in the 1980s—and the liberalization of protected area management worldwide—great strides have been made in-country that have liberalized protected area management and allowed for some local control of resources. A new category of protected area and a comprehensive buffer zone policy are hallmarks of the government's efforts at involving local people in protected area management during the 1990s. As with many other least-developed nations, however, Nepal has lacked resources for the formulation of comprehensive management plans for its protected areas. The Park People Programme, a multiyear project of the United Nations Development Programme and the Government of Nepal, has recently instituted Goal-Oriented Project Planning as an inexpensive way to plan managerial activities needed to conserve resources within protected areas and buffer zones. The technique relies on the use of management planning workshops that include representatives of important interest groups, and follow-up workshops for implementation. Here we describe the approach and discuss its strengths and weaknesses. Strengths include the fact that the approach is efficient and cost-effective given limited financial and human resources in the conservation sector typical of most developing countries. Weaknesses include the very short duration of meetings and lack of budgetary information needed to implement plans over the entire planning period. The method shows potential for expansion in Nepal and adoption by other nations, but several improvements and follow-up activities are needed based on this assessment and on qualitative information gathered from workshop participants. These include longer workshops, more facilitators, and long-term assessments of the use of the method, as well as implementation of management plans generated by the method.
Human behaviour probably evolved within the confines of small social groups whose members were closely related or interacted repeatedly over long periods of time. Patterns of behaviour regarding use of natural resources reflect this. It would appear that humans also tend to perceive as more urgent environmental problems occurring over a relatively short period of time, at relatively local spatial scales, and which affect them directly, rather than those occurring over greater spans of time and space. If so, then conservation strategies may be planned accordingly. This hypothesis is explored in the context of species conservation by the presentation of a country case-study (Nepal) and by a review of selected conservation programmes from several developing nations. There has been a general lack of research efforts that examine the effect of societal scales in this context, and more such efforts are needed to achieve conservation goals.
In late December 1991 and January 1992 the authors surveyed tourist shops selling fur and other animal products in Kathmandu, Nepal. Comparing the results with a study conducted 3 years earlier showed that the number of shops had increased, but indirect evidence suggested that the demand for their products may have decreased. There was still substantial trade in furs, most of which appeared to have come from India, including furs from species that are protected in India and Nepal. While both Nepali and Indian conservation legislation are adequate to control the illegal wildlife trade, there are problems in implementation: co-ordination between the two countries, as well as greater law enforcement within each country, are needed
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