I once caused a stir during a regular Friday night pub outing in Cambridge when I dared suggest that some people only worked in international conservation because it meant they got to visit cool places and work with exotic animals. Although some were a little shocked at my suggestion and strongly disagreed (I was, after all, out with a dozen or so conservationists) the very fact that they responded in such a manner proves that I may have just hit a nerve.
There can be little dispute that entire industries are built around the act of ‘international conservation and development’. And few are headquartered in developing countries, an irony in itself. I’m not sure if there are any official figures – please get in touch if you know of any – but the international conservation and development communities must be a considerable source of employment in the ‘developed’ world. Large percentages of allotted funding seem to have the habit of staying in-country and covering items such as head office salaries, rents, vehicles, meetings and other overheads. Why, entire conferences are built around, and funded, on single conservation or development themes. I’ve even been to a few.
There is much talk of local empowerment, local context and local ownership, but such an approach rarely suits a machine which needs considerable amounts of funding just to keep itself alive. Gerald Durrell (pictured), the late pioneering conservationist based in my home island of Jersey, always maintained that his ultimate aim was to secure the future of endangered species and their habits, and then close down his zoo. Job done.
The global conservation and development movement could have learnt a thing or two from this guy.