Saving threatened habitats worldwide

Don’t let politics get in the way of conservation

14 January, 2013 - 14:25 -- John Burton
Don’t let politics get in the way of conservation

I like to think that wildlife conservation is more important than politics. But of course in the real world that is often far from the truth.

But not always. While I am English, and while the British government and Argentine government have the occasional spat over the Falkland Isles / Islas Malvinas, that has never interfered with the conservation work that World Land Trust (WLT) carries out with its Argentine partner organisations.

In fact WLT has excellent relations with the government of the province of Misiones where we are currently supporting important conservation work.

I was therefore quite surprised when our American colleagues told me that they thought it unlikely that they could support conservation in Iran.

Not that we are currently supporting any conservation in Iran, but we do have a really good partner just over the border in Armenia.

Not only that, but one of our Council members has been very active in that region helping strengthen NGOs in both Syria and in Iraq. More recently he has put our Armenian partners in touch with conservationists in Yemen, and in fact Iranian conservationists attended a meeting the WLT supported in Armenia in 2011.

The Iranian Cheetah Conservation Society (which works with many more species as well) has done remarkable scientific research and, like most conservationists, they are happy to share their expertise and knowledge with others.

With the large carnivores of the Near East (now regularly called the Middle East!) all under threat or extinct, creating reserves and corridors is the only hope for their survival, and that means cross border cooperation.

Countries like Iran, Afghanistan, Burma need all the help we can give, but not from the top down, it needs to be the sharing of experience with similar organisations.

And money is not the only resource needed for conservation. Several of World land Trust’s partner organisations have come to WLT not for funding, but because they want to be part of a network of like minded organisations.

Land acquisition will always be the core activity of WLT, but there are many ways of achieving this objective, and we often need to be very creative. But the key to success and long term sustainability, is working with local NGOs in a true and equal partnership.


Submitted by Dominic Belfield on

Isn't this where the 'Non Governmental' part of NGO's proves it's weight in gold multiple times over?

Everyday people can forge links across the political divides via our NGO's where goverment officials can't or won't; and often those links can yield far more fruitful and productive results in both the short and long term.

I'm really pleased that WLT has such good links with an Armenian Conservation Group, because I don't know how I'd ever get to hear more about this country's wildlife potential in the centre of Europe/Asia in any better way.

And there is probably equally great potential to win friends and influence wildlife-enthusiastic people in Iran via big cat conservation. I find it nothing less than wonderful that there still ARE cheetahs and leopards out there in the mountains of Iran even after all the years of human settlement. And where governments can often appear so stupid, ordinary people can sparkle with imaginative and creative ways to celebrate nature in all it's diversity.

When it comes to leopards - the divisions can just melt away... In admiration. We are united.

Nature does not know about national borders – thus cross border partnership, collaborative scientific researches, shared experiences and knowledge are crucial for wildlife conservation in regional settings. NGOs dedicated to nature conservation and driven by common goals can reach out to partners across “difficult” or even closed borders. They have the unique chance to establish partnerships where on a political level cooperation seems to be impossible. This is in particularly true for the South Caucasus and Armenia - a country with closed borders to Turkey and Azerbaijan. With the support and under guidance of international organizations like the World Land Trust local nature conservation NGOs can build bridges by establishing regional partnerships. We can join our efforts, exchange experiences, collaborate in research and strive to set up cross border wildlife corridors and reserves.
Long term sustainability in nature conservation can only be achieved in the South Caucasus by working together, building common projects and fighting for the same goal. One of those projects is FPWC’s leopard project which has a big importance not only for Armenia but also for regional wildlife conservation in general. We are happy to collaborate with our Iranian colleagues from the Cheetah Society as well as with all other nature conservation organizations in the entire region anyway where they are located!

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