Wildlife conservation

Mission statement

ACIO wildlife conservation envisions a world where wildlife prospers in healthy lands and seas, valued by societies that embrace and benefit from the diversity and integrity of life on earth.

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Wildlife conservation

Wildlife crime is one of the main challenges in wildlife conservation. Africa’s invaluable wildlife resources are under threat due to wildlife crime which has been on the increase in the recent past. With a significant population of wildlife living outside the protected areas on a seasonal or permanent basis, these species need to be protected and safeguarding for their safety is under threats.  ACIO wildlife conservation’s main responsibility of the Species Conservation and Management is to spearhead the conservation and management programs of wildlife in the region of Africa and in line with its vision and mission – “Saving the last great species and places on earth for humanity” and to ensure recovery of endangered species whose populations are on the threat of extinction.

The Congo Basin is abundant in natural resources such as timber, diamonds and petroleum, but current methods and rates of extracting these resources are unsustainable and threaten the future of this vast wilderness area. In addition, unsustainable hunting of wildlife for the commercial bushmeat market threatens to wipe out many species.

Demand For Natural Resources

The Congo Basin is extremely rich in wood, oil and minerals such as diamonds, gold and coltan (used to make cell phones). Many people depend on such resources for their livelihoods, and the global demand for these materials is increasing.

A large and growing percentage of the Congo Basin is under concession to logging and mining companies. Such industries bring large groups of people to the forest and with that come their need for food, including bushmeat and fuelwood. Related infrastructure projects such as roads and dams have environmental impacts and increase access to remote forest areas for hunters.

Illegal Wildlife Trade

The leading cause of wildlife loss in the Congo Basin is the commercial bushmeat trade, driven by an ever-increasing market. In the DRC alone, over a million tons of bushmeat are consumed each year. Alarmingly, this lucrative business is causing the forest to become empty of species. Animals like monkeys and antelope are common targets, although species such as gorillas and bonobos are also at risk. Combating the bushmeat trade presents many challenges. In remote areas, bushmeat is the primary source of income for families, as it is the only export that will earn a profit. ACIO Wildlife Conservation works with communities to create alternatives.

The international demand for ivory still drives the killing of elephants, leading to local extinctions and threatening to eliminate elephants entirely. ACIO Wildlife Conservation plays an important role in fighting illegal trade, including through traffic, the world’s largest wildlife trade monitoring network.

Successful Cross-Boundary Collaboration

With six countries directly involved, protecting the Congo Basin will require a concerted effort that transcends national boundaries. In order to manage the forests sustainably and safeguard wildlife, we work with local communities and governments as members of the Congo Basin Forest Partnership. In order to support antipoaching efforts, we assist in negotiating agreements between governments that permit unrestricted cross-border movement of park employees and cooperative patrols. By empowering the local communities that rely on the forests to better manage their resources and enhance their standard of living, our partnerships also enable us to more effectively address their needs.

Developing Long-Term Strategies

ACIO Wildlife Conservation works to ensure more sustainable methods of extracting natural resources, such as trees, oil, and minerals, with minimal impact to wildlife and forests. To reduce pressure for fuelwood, ACIO has been part of a tree plantation program outside Itombwe forest in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Over 8 million trees have been planted to help meet the needs of local people and preserve mountain gorilla habitat. ACIO Wildlife Conservation has also provided fuel-efficient stoves and works with communities to find alternative wood sources through private and community forests.

Empowering Local Communities

In the DRC, ACIO Wildlife Conservation introduced farmers to new types of crops and innovative methods to grow them so farming operations do not encroach upon nearby forest or harm wildlife. ACIO Wildlife Conservation has also worked to empower local women to improve their livelihoods and the nutrition of their children by encouraging their participation in the new farming program. ACIO continues to empower local communities to conserve their resources and improve livelihoods.

Our approach for working with communities

Engage Communities to Protect Lions and Other Big Cats

Together with local people, we conserve DRC’s highly threatened lions, leopards, and cheetahs by addressing all primary threats to their long-term survival.

Lion, cheetah, and leopard populations have come under extreme pressure in Eastern DRC in Itombwe over the last twenty years, particularly outside of protected areas. Threats challenging the survival of these big cats are primarily due to conflict with humans and the loss of habitat and prey species. In this region, more than 90 % of wildlife habitats are landscapes where humans and wildlife interact. Therefore, the committed involvement of local communities is essential for the long-term survival of big cats.

How we cooperate

ACIO in the Eastern DRC Itombwe Big Cats Conservation Initiative engages local people as our allies and partners, empowering them to sustainably manage their natural resources for the mutual benefit of both people and wildlife. Our holistic approach supports community-driven conservation activities, working to stabilize local wildlife populations while uplifting livelihoods.

As local ambassadors for conservation, Soldiers for Wildlife provide rapid response to human-wildlife conflict events, rescue lost livestock, and offer ongoing dialogue and education to their respective communities about living with wildlife.

We partner with communities to protect vast, open spaces that wildlife depends on. While Community Scouts conduct regular patrols to prevent illegal activity in the Itombwe ecosystem, our Sustainable Rangelands Initiative mobilizes local people to monitor and manage vital grasslands across Itombwe in Democratic Republic of Congo.

Monitor and Track Wildlife Populations

To ensure that wildlife continues to benefit from our programs, Community Scouts conduct twice-monthly counts to monitor local species in targeted areas. For the past nine years, key herbivore populations have increased or remained stable.

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