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Business and species conservation: are they a good match?


A Call from the Wild

The newsletter of IUCN Save Our Species and the Integrated Tiger Habitat Conservation Programme

The creation of businesses to support conservation activities is a practice that not a lot of people are aware exists and yet, it can provide a balanced solution to fulfil conservation and fundraising needs.

In most cases, local communities have to resort to illegal activities in order to survive. Helping them create an alternative, legal and sustainable revenue stream can in some cases be an essential component in conservation activities. The advantage of these businesses or commercial activities is that all revenue usually goes directly to the communities, and helps in relieving some of the pressure they place on their local biodiversity.

At IUCN Save Our Species, we encourage these kinds of activities as they help organisations sustain their financial needs all the while having a positive impact on wildlife. Furthermore, conservation businesses fall in line with our objectives: the long-term goal of these businesses is to help Species, while carrying-out activities that help Habitats and ultimately benefit People.

Below are some examples of IUCN Save Our Species projects that managed to drastically reduce destructive and illegal practices thanks to some creative thinking. By employing different business methods, these projects show that the sale of goods can be a useful, sustainable, all-encompassing tool in conservation.

The Snares to Wares Initiative SOS African Wildlife project implemented by Michigan State University Location: Murchison Falls National Park, Uganda Business practice: turning illegal snares into sculptures

Whether due to retaliatory killings in human-wildlife conflict situations or for sustenance, poaching represents a serious threat to all wildlife in Murchison Falls National Park. Poachers mostly use illegal snares, which are very destructive to wildlife populations as they are indiscriminate. This means that they are just as likely to catch their intended prey as other species. As a result, illegal snares are a major cause of mortality and injury for threatened lions and giraffes inside the park.

The Snares to Wares initiative found a clever solution by transforming one of the most dangerous and problematic poaching weapons into inspiring pieces of art. This initiative works with reconverted poachers as well as vulnerable young local community members that risk being recruited into the poaching trade. It changes the lives of the local communities by providing them with an income source, and raises awareness on the problem of wildlife poaching at the same time. 1000 sculptures are created by 324 artisans every month, reaching local and international customers.

"As the root cause of subsistence poaching is poverty, Snares to Wares provides professional development opportunities for local people to become snare wire artisans. We foster local and international markets for the sale of snare art with revenue that tangibly uplifts community members in conservation practice. This presents a powerful mechanism to prevent subsistence poaching before it starts." - Dr. Robert Montgomery, Co-Director, Snares to Wares



Mujeres Martillo Fondation Segré Conservation Action Fund project implemented by Misión Tiburón Location: Golfo Dulce, Costa Rica Business practice: sale of artisanal bracelets created by women

Golfo Dulce’s Hammerhead Shark Sanctuary is an important nursey area for Critically Endangered Scalloped Hammerhead sharks. This area is also host to one of the poorest local communities in Costa Rica, and is severely threatened by environmental and socio-economic pressures that worsened during the coronavirus pandemic. Part of this human coastal population, especially those with limited education and opportunities, have resorted to illegal activities such as poaching for sustenance.

In order to change the situation, this project has launched the Mujeres Martillo (Hammerhead Shark Ladies) programme, which aims to establish a business model for local women inspired by the hammerhead shark and nature conservation. One of their first products is a limited edition, artisanal bracelet with a delicate hammerhead shark design, which is sold in local tourist shops.

As a result, women are empowered by legitimate work opportunities and aware about the benefits of ocean conservation. The programme creates revenue streams for women, all the while supporting the Sanctuary’s conservation strategies.

"The Scalloped Hammerhead Shark Sanctuary Golfo Dulce is located in a region rich in marine diversity, but the local communities have the lowest social and economic opportunities in Costa Rica. The initiative "Mujeres Martillo" responds to this situation, promoting the protection of a Critically Endangered species, through the capacity building of local women to elaborate products inspired by nature conservation. The initiative brings dignified work for women and supports the formal education of girls. At the same time, women are more empowered and aware about the benefits of ocean conservation, building a real engagement for shark protection."

- Ilena Zanella, Co-Founder, Misión Tiburón

Conserving Lemurs in the Manombo Special ReserveSOS Lemurs project implemented by Groupe d’Etude et de Recherche sur les Primates Location: Manombo Special Reserve, Madagascar Business practice: sale of locally-made honey and artisanal goods

A number of Endangered and Critically Endangered lemur species live in the Manombo Special Reserve. The forest’s edges are also home to a vibrant community that has historically depended on local biodiversity for their needs: poaching, as well as illegal fires and logging are a common occurrence in this area. This has a direct negative effect on lemurs, as fire and illegal logging destroy food sources, and hunting leads to reduced population.

By facilitating beekeeping and the production of handmade goods, this project creates revenue streams, increases food security and reduces the need for families to poach for food. Beekeepers managed to produce and sell honey from 120 beehives, and local women associations were also trained on weaving techniques. These items were sold at the local market, where a total of 167 community members were able to benefit from these new revenue streams and did not have to depend on the forest for support.



Securing Source Population of Tiger, Prey and Habitats

Integrated Tiger Habitat Conservation Programme project implemented by Aaranyak Location: Manas National Park, Assam, India Business practice: sale of food and other consumable goods

Manas National Park located at the base of the Bhutan Hills is the core of a critically important trans-boundary tiger landscape between Bhutan and India. However, over two decades of civil unrest have resulted in increased poaching, encroachment and habitat degradation. Although the civil unrest has largely subsided, these illicit activities have continued to plague the park, threatening the tigers left in the trans-boundary area.

To improve the situation, 1,400 local community households received alternative livelihood trainings such as potato cultivation, fishery, mushroom farming, beekeeping, weaving, and tailoring. These products are sold under the newly created brand “Manah”, and are available in local markets.

Furthermore, to increase productivity, 100 farmers got together to form the Khilinai Farmer Producer Company. Not only is the company backed by government agencies, but it also establishes a model path that can be replicated in the future to support other beneficiaries.

"A business model like Manah is directly benefiting indigenous communities living on the fringe of the Manas National Park, as they are becoming more sustainable and independent by selling their farm and non-farm products to consumers at a fairer price than they used to be. It has increased their self-esteem and financial security while their reduced dependency is helping tiger, prey animals, their habitats and biodiversity to revitalize."

- Firoz Ahmed, Head of Tiger Research and Conservation Division, Aaranyak

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IUCN Save Our Species contributes to the long-term survival of threatened species, their habitats and the people who depend on them by supporting civil society organisations. It aims at building the capacity of many of these organisations and communicating about the successes to inspire more people to support this universal cause. This is IUCN's response to the challenges identified by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ mobilising IUCN's unique knowledge and expertise of the members of the Species Survival Commission and its many Specialist Groups.

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The Integrated Tiger Habitat Conservation Programme (ITHCP) or ‘Tiger Programme‘ is an initiative funded by the German Cooperation via KfW Development Bank, which contributes to the global effort to double tiger numbers in the wild by 2022 by supporting landscape level conservation work benefiting species, communities and habitats. Coordinated actions enhancing conservation skills, developing new livelihoods and improving governance and infrastructure are delivering results in terms of better protected tigers across these landscapes. Visit website

Photography credits Snares to Wares: Peter Luhonda Mujeres Martillo: Misión Tiburón GERP: Sugoto Roy Aaranyak: Sugoto Roy

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