Accelerating conservation: can we learn from other sectors?

Can conservation learn from other sectors? Do we have the capacity to teach oursleves new wasy of designing, testing and improving the way we do conservation work? Good disciplines of management can be learned from other sectors; we just have to apply them in our work in the field, in zoos, and in collaborations with scientific institutions, governments and communities. It all starts with they way that we, as leaders, think – the assumptions we hold and the frameworks we use as the basis for our decision-making, planning, problem solving and interaction with other people.

We need to work smarter in order to keep up with the acceleration of pressure on natural resources which is driven by population growth and industrial development. Is this possible?

Dramatic turnarounds with species like the Mauritius Kestrel and Echo Parakeet have been shown to be possible. It is a question of learning. Some species, such as the Seychelles Kestrel have been shown to have recovered without human intervention – what can we learn from that?

To achieve more successful conservation we need to bridge the science-practitioner gap (Game et al., 2013). The latest developments in Mauritius are one example where deep scientific knowledge of the genetics of the Echo Parakeet now inform practical interventions to repopulate new habitats across the island with genetically robust birds (Tollington et al., 2013). Linking work to conservation goals is a leadership challenege rather than a scientific one.

It is still often found that projects, despite available expertise and resource, are hampered either by people rigidly sticking to outdated plans of action, or by being allowed to drift off course due to the pursuit of ill-conceived goals. These are symptoms of a hesitant or uninformed management approach. Science cannot provide the answers to these problems (Clark and Reading, 1994), but better leadership can guide people towards a better way of doing things.


A fuller version of this article is available in:

Black S.A. (2014) Can we engineer an exponential growth in conservation impact? Solitaire 25: 3-5. Durrell Conservation Academy, Jersey. ISSN 2053-1087.


Other reading:

Game, E.T., Meijaard, E., Sheil, D., McDonald-Madden, E. (2013). Conservation in a wicked complex world; challenges and solutions. Conservation Letters 7 (3): 271-277

Martin, T. G., S. Nally, A. A. Burbridge, S. Arnall, S. T. Garnett, M.W. Hayward, L. F. Lurnsden, P. Menkhorst, E. McDonald-Madden, and Possingham, H. P. (2012) Acting fast helps avoid extinction. Conservation Letters 5:274–280.

Tollington, S., Jones, C.G., Greenwood, A., Tatayah, V., Raisin, C., Burke, T., Dawson, D.A., Groombridge, J.J. (2013) Long-term, fine-scale temporal patterns of genetic diversity in the restored Mauritius parakeet reveal genetic impacts of management and associated demographic effects on reintroduction programmes. Biological Conservation 161:28-38.


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