the intersection of big predators and people, conflicts arise that disrupt communities and livelihoods. Whether we are talking about wolves in Jackson Hole, Wyoming or tigers in the Russian Far East, successful conservation programs require solutions that mitigate human-wildlife conflicts, empower local people and build community resiliency.
This past fall, with the assistance of the National Wildlife Refuge Association, Tigers for Tigers became involved in a working group of conservation experts from the US and Russia, under the Eurasia Foundation’s US-Russia Social Expertise Exchange Program to share best practices and to determine practical solutions regarding critters with big teeth.
Earlier this year, we invited our Russian colleagues from Russian Protected Areas to Montana and Wyoming to meet with staff at the Blackfoot Challenge, a collective of ranchers and government officials, and visited National Elk Refuge in Wyoming. We recently returned from our trip to the Russian Far East where we visited Sikhote-Alin Nature Reserve and Land of the Leopard. As a result of the project, our working group is designing three different brochures for local communities to address human-wildlife conflicts with wolves, bears and tigers. It was truly an incredible experience!
The biggest takeaway from both of these experiences is that perceived conflicts and fears are real problems and whether or not they actually exist, they need to be addressed. If we do not recognize the concerns of our communities, our conservation efforts may be in jeopardy even if the science is sound. Cooperative decision-making with all stakeholders and establishing effective partnerships are key to empowering people. We need to communicate with people on their terms in order to be effective.
As we are learning how to mobilize and empower students through T4T, this was a great learning opportunity for us. For example, there is no “one size fits all” solution to mitigate human-wildlife conflicts with grizzly bears. There is no “one size fits all” solution to recruit students at every campus. As we grow and develop the coalition, we need to recognize different cultures, previous successes and learn from each other. Sharing best practices, whether it is between conservation practitioners or between T4T clubs, will help us grow exponentially. Refuges and protected areas provide constituents with inspiring opportunities to get outside, break down barriers and learn about their backyard. T4T wishes to do the same by providing students exposure to conservation through our activities and national events.
We hope there will be more opportunities in the near future to work with our Russian and US colleagues and to share those experiences with our members and all of you.