Human beings have long been known throughout history to destroy or replace items that they do not use or understand. We also have been known to conserve items which we consider valuable. This is not something new as our ancestors did this way before the current generation came into existence. There is the saying that people destroy what they do not know. This is very common especially so when it comes to societal and religious concerns other than environmental conservation. For instance, philosophy is considered dead, however, unless you understand the concept then you are able to place value on it and thus treasure it.
When we speak about sustainable wildlife utilization, what do we mean? Let’s start with the basics. What is wildlife and why do we need to utilize it? Wildlife is non-domesticated animal species, plants (vegetation), fungi and other organisms which grow or live naturally in an area.
As the human race, we have the mandate to take care of what we have. Wildlife, when considered as a resource which when effectively managed may provide incentives for conservation and restoration because of the social, cultural and economic benefits that people could derive from that use. When we carefully plan and enhance the responsible management of this resource we can benefit from the sustainable use. This includes maintenance of a healthy environment which is also a human right thus supporting the species being utilized. Herein, when we talk of utilization there is the non – consumptive way and the consumptive way.
Let’s now discuss the non – consumptive ways as per the Wildlife Management and Conservation Act, 2013. Basically, non – consumptive use involves;
Tourism is a long-term sustainable non – consumptive use of wildlife where income can be generated from habitats that have an economic value such as wildlife viewing or bird watching. In some instances, habitats that may otherwise have no major economic value or are vulnerable to destruction for other forms of gain can be preserved and maintained for tourism prospects such as skydiving, hiking, rock climbing and other adrenaline filled outdoor activities.
Niches such as ecotourism have been developed providing economic and employment opportunities for people, especially local communities for whom employment in the wildlife industries is consistent with the maintenance of community traditions and culture.
Negative impacts on this include causing damage to wildlife and its habitats such as observing wildlife in close proximity during the breeding or migration season.
This is currently an emerging trend in wildlife utilization with the continuous development in film and photo technology. Never before has man been able to capture still moments of wildlife or even their behaviour as we do today. This is fascinating and increases our curiosity to find more.
Film and photography are great ways to educate people about wildlife and the environment which in turn can be used to preserve and maintain it.
We are yet to know everything and claiming that we do is an insult to the universe. We are only a tiny spec in the entire universe and with the one ‘blue’ planet humans, animals and plant species have been able to thrive in we are yet to uncover it all. Through the environment, we are able to learn more about ourselves.
Children can be able to be in nature which enhances developmental skills other than staying indoors.
Increase the knowledge of species and ecosystems. This enhances our ability to create rather than destroy. When we know that a particular species aids in our survival in a very immense way we learn to protect it. This is also able to reduce conflicts between conservation and development interests, undermine illegal trade in wildlife, create economic incentives to rehabilitate habitats degraded through unsustainable
use and quantify the responses of wildlife to use, which can help assess the conservation risks of increased mortality from any source.
We have coexisted with wildlife since the beginning of time. Our cultures, especially in Africa, have symbolized wildlife from animal species such as lions, elephants and eagles to trees such as the baobab and fig trees. No wildlife would mean no culture thus generations ahead would actually not know where they belong. This may pose future psychological issues for countries resulting in poor mental health.
Culturally, we also consider wildlife as a part of us that should be protected because we derive so much from it.
God gave humans dominion over the Earth and its animals befitting them the responsibility of environmental stewardship as seen in Genesis. The holy book in Islam, the Qur’an, contains over 750 references to ecology and how those principles can be applied to caring for the environment. Hinduism is a faith known for its respect of all life and of the environment. Buddhists are known to be followers of an, especially environmentally friendly faith. (Source: Seeker)
All religions thus have respect in one or another and consider the environment even as part of religious teaching.
With these examples of non – consumptive utilization of wildlife, we should work more towards growth, building and making it accommodating for many people to embrace it.