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How we work: Building conservation leadership

Leadership. Credit FFI
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Written by: Rebecca Drury
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The illegal trade in wildlife is a growing global problem worth billions of dollars a year, and one of the biggest threats to the survival of some of our most iconic species.

Addressing this crisis is a complex global challenge, requiring cooperation between source, transit and destination countries, and between local communities, non-governmental organisations and government agencies.

This requires a cadre of highly skilled professionals, working in organisations at the frontline of biodiversity conservation. These individuals need to apply multi-disciplinary knowledge, understand the political and cultural contexts in which they work, and mobilise others to engage in tackling this critical issue where it matters most.

To underpin an effective conservation movement and address illegal wildlife trade effectively, we need to invest in early career professional conservationists in high biodiversity countries, helping them to build and apply these vital skills.

Building conservation leadership

Building local conservation leadership is central to FFI’s approach to conserve threatened species and ecosystems worldwide.

  • Fauna & Flora International (FFI) is a founding partner of the Conservation Leadership Programme (CLP), which has been providing grants, training and networking opportunities to young conservationists for the past 30 years.
  • FFI helped to establish, and continues to support, the pioneering MPhil in Conservation Leadership at the University of Cambridge. The course offers students the unique chance to learn from 60 staff drawn from the six academic departments and nine conservation organisations that form the Cambridge Conservation Initiative (of which FFI is also a founding member).
  • Following the Khmer Rouge’s shattering of Cambodia’s education system and decades of underinvestment in education, FFI has also supported the Royal University of Phnom Penh (RUPP) to establish Cambodia’s first Master’s degree course in biodiversity conservation in 2005. FFI and the RUPP co-deliver the MSc which has trained more than 100 Cambodians.
  • We are also working with United for Wildlife (Link 6) to engage with young people around the world and get them enthused about and involved in conservation. For example, FFI has helped raise awareness of rhino conservation through the online game RuneScape and develop a Massive Online Open Course (MOOC) on conservation for young people. The course presents the basic concepts of conservation, and provides information on ways to get involved –whether that’s by volunteering, living more sustainably, or embarking on a career in this field. The online course is available here.

All of these programmes give emerging conservation leaders the chance to hone their skills, while working to address real-world conservation problems – including illegal wildlife trade.

Many of these emerging leaders have focused on addressing illegal wildlife trade, such as Trang Nguyen, who looked at building links between Kenya and Vietnam to help address rhino poaching as part of her MPhil in Conservation Leadership.

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Rebecca Drury

Rebecca is FFI’s Senior Technical Specialist for Wildlife Trade. With a PhD in Human Ecology, she is interested in the challenges of the relationship between human needs and the environment. Before joining FFI, Rebecca worked on these issues in Egypt, Nepal, Cambodia and Vietnam. Her work included researching the social drivers of consumer demand for wildlife products in Vietnam. At FFI, Rebecca provides technical input to, and is responsible for the strategic development of, FFI’s work to address illegal trade in wild species.

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