We get asked a lot of questions when people playing Conservation Crisis, most of which are about real-world conservation issues they find out about from the game. One of the most common questions is ‘how can giving someone a job save wildlife?’
It’s a valid question – on the face of it, there doesn’t seem to be any link with wildlife. So why is it important?
In short, to help stop poaching and to gain the support of local communities for conservation work.
Most poaching is not malicious – it is often carried out by people who are struggling to get an income to support themselves and their families, so are forced to rely on poaching.
Perhaps the best example of this comes from the work of the Pole Pole Foundation, a Congolese Gorilla Conservation Charity. The founder of the charity, John Kahekwa, was talking to poachers who had been arrested and he asked them ‘why do you poach?’. They all replied, ‘empty stomachs have no ears.’
Because they were struggling to earn a living, they had to poach, so all the messages about how wrong it was fell on deaf ears as they had no other choice. By offering them jobs, such as carving sculptures and developing livestock businesses, these poachers turned into protectors; some of their children are now at the charity’s school, studying so that they can become rangers to protect the wildlife their parents used to hunt.
There are more lucrative forms of poaching, such as hunting rhino horn and elephant ivory, which is worth thousands of pounds. But even in these cases, the individuals carrying out the poaching will be paid the least, and often become involved because their alternative employment options are so poor.
Some poaching is malicious and must be dealt with as the criminal activity that it is – especially for those involved in the international smuggling and sale of illegal wildlife products. But in many cases, providing support to people to offer an alternative to poaching can be a more effective process than carrying out arrests.
We’ve replicated this in Conservation Crisis by giving you the opportunity to run livelihood schemes to create employment for your local communities. If you run these schemes, not only will you reduce poaching, but you’ll also gain wildlife through the game as the safety of your reserve helps your species recover. And by supporting your community, you’ll gain their support for your conservation work, multiplying the impact you have.
So giving jobs to people really can save wildlife, and by getting the local community on side conservation work is much more effective.