Local people take an active role in many ZSL projects, patrolling their local forests or seas. We help ensure that these patrol groups have the training, resources and ongoing support they need for success. Community patrols are helping protect tigers and pangolins in Nepal; African elephants, western gorillas and chimpanzees in Cameroon; and endangered seahorses, sharks and rays in the reefs and mangroves of the Philippines.
Why does ZSL support community-based patrol groups?
Conservation can only be sustainable long-term if local communities not only support this, but take a lead role in protecting local wildlife. Local people have immense knowledge of their own environment, with a rich understanding of their landscape, its wildlife, and the threats it faces.
In many countries where ZSL works, local people have legal rights to benefit from resources in or around protected areas, so they have a particular interest in protecting these from illegal use. Some patrol groups aim to protect resources such as forest plants or mushrooms, while others discourage poaching for the illegal wildlife trade. Community patrols typically coordinate with park rangers, so that they can learn from each other, with rangers understanding local needs and perspectives, while reducing risks for local patrols.
ZSL projects often combine community-based patrolling with other mechanisms to benefit local people, such as sustainable livelihoods support and community-managed conservation areas, whether on land or sea.
Nepal has strong national legislation that provides mechanisms for people to benefit sustainably from resources in national park buffer zones and Community Forests. These long-standing rights provide an incentive for community patrol groups to ensure that rules are followed and neither residents nor outsiders exploit resources illegally. At ZSL, we partner with Nepali communities that are actively engaged in combatting the illegal wildlife trade. We support community-based anti-poaching patrols that are protecting Nepal’s tigers and elephants, pangolins, and gharials.
Since 1995, we have helped establish 54 community-managed marine protected areas in the Philippines. Community patrols are key to their success, enforcing spatial access restrictions (such as no-take zones), which allow fish and marine invertebrates space to grow and reproduce. Our partner communities recognise the benefits of protecting their areas, and invest in patrols and guardhouses.
The forests of the Dja conservation complex covers almost 2 million hectares, home to elephants, gorillas and chimpanzees. This vast area is targeted by criminal gangs linked to international wildlife trafficking and the bushmeat trade.
Putting indigenous Baka communities at the forefront of patrolling would create unacceptable risks, so instead we support communities to collect information on illegal activities and share this safely with rangers, who are trained and equipped with our support. The communities also monitor enforcement activities to ensure laws are applied fairly, and benefit from investments in sustainable livelihoods.
We are supporting community management of a new local protected area (the Khoid Mogoin gol-Teel), part of our pioneering work to enable communities to take a lead role in recovery of Mongolia’s fragile forest-steppe ecosystem. This includes training local herders to patrol the forests and use SMART (Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool) to discourage illegal logging, harvesting of non-timber forest products, and recording of other illegal activities within the protected area.