Conservation in Central Africa faces many hurdles but huge progress has been made in recent years. In most Central African countries, funding for wildlands conservation still comes largely or entirely from international NGOs. Mechanisms to “make wildlife pay” (e.g. ecotourism) are poorly developed for the most part, although the potential is large. Perhaps most important, there is relatively little appreciation in the general public for the importance of biodiversity conservation, due in part to relatively poor education, extreme poverty in rural populations, and limited options for making a living.
Dependencies on external sources of funding are problematic for long term sustainability because international focus shifts and many programs really need a long term commitment to achieve lasting success. Solutions to this challenge involve not only demonstrable outcomes from programs but also building capacity within the local scientific community in order to develop both the skills to maintain and initiate novel programs but also to build a new generation of conservation-minded citizens.
Because of the poaching crisis, which affects not only elephants and pangolins in particular, but all of the great apes and many bird and tree species, the bulk of conservation funds have poured into anti-poaching strategies. But the vast and often inaccessible landscape, and a closed tree canopy which limits remote sensing approaches, can limit the effectiveness of these efforts.
Finally, the rich world is inundated with information and perceived crises, and so raising awareness and generating commitment for the conservation of wildlands on other continents is critical.
The Elephant Listening Project works in each of these areas to help improve conservation outcomes, from basic research to provide valuable information for data-driven decision-making, to evaluating the effectiveness of anti-poaching strategies and both mentoring students/researchers and spreading knowledge about the wonder, complexity, and challenges that forest elephants provide to us.