By Michael Charles Tobias
Simon N. Stuart PhD, has been associated with the Species Survival Commission since the early 1980s, when he started work on the African Bird Red Data Book. He joined the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Secretariat in 1986, and was Head of the Species Programme (1990-2000), Acting Director General (2000-2001), Head of the Biodiversity Assessment Unit (2001-2005), and Senior Species Scientist (2005-2008).
For 25 years, Dr. Stuart has been in the frontlines of the fight to save the world’s wildlife, much of it imperiled at the very moment that local humans, co-habiting the regions wherein so much of the world’s threatened species and populations still survive, are themselves impoverished. The challenges are huge. Dr. Stuart is presently based at The Innovation Centre of the University of Bath in the UK. We spoke during his recent Species Survival Commission work in New Delhi, India.
Michael Tobias: Simon, this past September Prince Charles, the new President of the World Wildlife Fund within his own country, warned, as have so many before him, that, in his opinion, we are facing the “sixth extinction event” and that ‘surviving ourselves’ (referring to everything our species is doing to destroy the natural world), must be our number one priority.
Meanwhile, the headlines pertaining to poaching of wildlife, and the data emerging from many wildlife trafficking conferences, appear to be grim. This would seem especially to be the case when one looks at regions like eastern and southern Africa, as well as India. These areas have many of the highest concentrations of large animals in the tropical world. That said, we know that in South Africa’s most famous national park, Kruger, soldiers have been placed near the Mozambique border to try against all odds to stop rhino poachers. One report has indicated that one rhino is killed every 41 hours throughout Africa.
In India’s state of Assam, whole gangs come into places like Kaziranga and Orang National Parks to poach Indian Rhinos. More....