March 25, 2023


Fascinating Talks of the Planet

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Conservation Continues

Conservation Continues

If conservation initiatives include asking range country people not to hunt or place bee hives or remove wood from the rainforest, PIC believes that it is imperative for people to be offered economic alternatives. The term “conservation commerce” was coined by Terry Bloomer, Gift Shop Manager, at the Woodland Park Zoo. PIC believes that “conservation commerce” should be included in conservation initiatives and like viable community development projects, can offer people economic alternatives so they don’t have to depend on forest resources.

To economically assist local people, PIC started an ARTISAN PROJECT with one artisan cooperative in 1995. The ARTISAN PROJECT continues to operate using fair trade practices, and PIC is currently working with 400 people from sixteen coops. Careful planning and safeguards must be employed to: (1) make sure that forest resources are never used to make artisan items, (2) that the growth of cooperatives is carefully monitored to insure not only quality control but
also that attention is paid to local cultures, (3) that artisans have ownership in managing their coops, and (4) that artisans retain a working partnership with the organizing project. PIC began partnering with basket makers in a tiny village adjacent to Nyungwe National Park in 2000.

These women were gathering firewood from the forest everyday for cooking and to keep their homes warm. With money earned from selling  now able to purchase charcoal made from non‑rainforest woods for cooking and heating; PIC continues to purchase baskets from these women. Since this program began removing wood from the forest by the basket makers has been reduced by 85%. In the DRC, PIC partners with the Pole Pole Foundation (POPOF) on projects located in the buffer zone of the Kahuzi‑Biega National Park. In 1998, POPOF trained eighteen men in the craft of wood carving; these men were actively poaching animals – including gorillas, chimpanzees and elephants – inside Kahuzi‑Biega. PIC continues to purchase 95% of the beautiful animal carvings made by the former poachers. These men are now able to make more money to care for their families from carving gorillas from wood than from killing them
for bush meat. No animal has been killed by these men during the past 10 years.

Our experience shows that the artisan project is providing economic alternatives to men and women, is helping preserve the rainforest and the animals that live there, and has increased positive discussions between our conservation partners and the artisans.

Zoos can participate in “conservation commerce” by: (1) providing donors with unique gifts that reflect the zoo’s connection to conservation, (2) purchasing hand‑crafted fabric tote‑bags that can be given to conference delegates or guests at donor events, and (3) including hand‑crafted items in their gift shops that will provide guests with an opportunity to participate in conservation. The Woodland Park, Houston and Columbus Zoos are currently selling items made by people participating in PIC’s Artisan Project. In order to make artisan items competitive in the market place, PIC provides them at wholesale prices to zoos.

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