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Conservation Strategies

A Species Conservation Strategy (SCS) is a blueprint for saving a species or group of species, across all or part of the species’ range.

A SCS should contain a Status Review, a Vision and Goals for saving the species, Objectives that need to be met to achieve the Goals, and Actions that will accomplish those Objectives.

The test for species conservation planning is that it results in improved conservation status for the planned species. It should be appreciated that while species may face immediate problems of biological origin, their effective conservation needs solutions that will require responses by society, and may therefore require changes in behavior at the level of individuals, communities or local and central governments.

There are two obvious ways to increase the chance of successful conservation interventions:

  • to ensure the correct range of people and organizations is involved in the planning process;

  • to include individuals with the right skills in the social sciences and psychology who can appreciate the complexities and potential for encouraging the necessary behavior changes.​

The components of a SCS are as follows:

  • A range-wide Status Review (incorporating a threat analysis). This Status Review defines the historical and current distribution of the species, states population sizes (or at least gives some measure of relative abundance), evaluates population trends, and identifies losses and threats. The Status Review should, where available, be informed by the appropriate Red List Assessment(s) and supporting documentation from the Red List Unit of the IUCN Species Program and the Species Information Service (SIS). The completed Status Review should also in turn feed back into the Red List process.

  • A range-wide (or in some cases a regional) Vision, which is an inspirational description of the participants’ desired future state for the species, and a set of associated Goals. These Goals are a rephrasing of the Vision in operational terms to capture in greater detail what needs to be achieved, and where, to save the species. Both the Vision and the Goals have the same geographical and temporal scale. The Goals have a set of associated Goal Targets (refer to the entity being conserved), which are a medium-term (typically 5–10 years) subset of the Goals. Goal Targets represent those Goals (and/or the necessary steps towards those Goals) that can realistically be achieved over the lifetime of the SCS. Like all targets, Goal Targets should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound).

  • A set of Objectives needed to achieve the Goal Targets over the stated timespan. Objectives address the main threats to the species identified in the Status Review process and the other constraints on achieving the Vision and Goals. In fact, Objectives can be thought of as the inverse of key threats and constraints. Each Objective should also have a SMART Objective Target. Objectives are typically developed using some form of problem analysis (e.g., “problem tree” methods). Each Objective is usually associated with one or more SMART Objective Targets.

  • Actions to address each Objective Target. Actions are the activities which need to be performed to achieve the Objectives, Goals, and, ultimately, the Vision. Recommendations for Actions should ideally provide details of what needs to be done, where, when, and by whom. Actions are typically short-term (usually 1–5 years).

To be strategic, any Plan or Strategy should be characterized thus:

  • It should start with a high-level question such as ‘What do we want for this species within so many years?’ and then progressively work down in terms of time horizons and detailed answers to the question, ending up with the tactics required to implement the strategy.

  • It must involve the full range of organizations and individuals that have interests in the species and its habitat.

  • A strategic approach should include the social, political, and cultural environments in which conservation actions will be taken, acknowledging that the most effective interventions for species may depend on the activities and behaviors of local people.

  • A strategic approach explicitly acknowledges the dynamic cycle of learning by doing and then adapting in pursuit of the longer-term ambition, in contrast to a one-off set of responses or actions.

  • A strategic approach includes consideration of the resources, risks, priorities and other aspects of implementation.

“People must feel that the natural world is important and valuable and beautiful and wonderful and an amazement and a pleasure.”

-Sir David Attenborough.

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