Every other year the International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation (CIC) awards and celebrates outstanding conservation performance by individuals, private or public institutions, enterprises, or projects that link the conservation of biodiversity to human livelihood, through the principles of sustainable use, in particular hunting, as part of wildlife and ecosystem management. The CIC Markhor Award is granted at the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD CoP), of which the 13th is taking place in Cancun, Mexico this year.
Private reserves and community based conservancies all over the world protect critical habitat in various ecosystems and play a crucial role in the protection of highly endangered species, especially in Africa, where a minimum of 60 million hectares of private land is under some form of wildlife protection or sustainable wildlife management. Therefore, on the continent, the consumptive use of wildlife is of significant value and these values are, in principle, measurable.
This year the winner is the Savé Valley Conservancy in Zimbabwe, which is a role model to the private sector implementing a comprehensive community participation and conservation development program. At the basis of the program, the agreement between the conservancy and the local communities sets out mutual obligations to develop tourism in the area in such a way that maximizes benefits to the local communities. The Savé Valley Conservancy holds more than 4 000 buffalo, 1 600 elephants, and over 160 black and white rhinos; has brought poaching under control; and have wildlife population which show high growth rates, despite serious poaching threats particularly for rhinos.
The success of this “safe harbor” conservancy demonstrates what many have previously argued was impossible: that landowners would embrace conservation of endangered species and show considerable willingness to protect and restore their habitat through the financial support generated from the sustainable use of wildlife.