Our work is as much about people as it is about lions and other carnivores. If we get the relationships with local people right and resolve any conflicts as they occur, we believe that the lions will eventually look after themselves. Three of the upper management team (Colleen, Hugo and Agostinho) have completed training in “conflict transformation” presented by Conservation Peacebuilding. The skills taught are based on peace-building principles. We have adopted the philosophy that every conflict should be seen as an opportunity for positive change. While our conservation work with the wildlife is based on scientifically-sound research and especially regular monitoring, research for us is a tool and not an end goal and pure research is not part of our work. The end goal must be to find and implement sustainable solutions to conservation threats with full community participation from the start of any initiative. We see this as the only hope for lion and carnivore conservation in future. Our experience has been that the best solutions are locally-derived, empower local communities, and are low-tech.
We have a long-term, committed approach to conservation and have been working inside the Niassa Reserve since 2003. Our main focus is on the African lion but we work to conserve all carnivores in Niassa. Our small team is exclusively Mozambican, other than the founders, Colleen and Keith Begg. We are committed to hiring and training Niassa residents for our staff, providing advanced schooling through scholarships, and mentoring young Mozambican conservationists.
Our aim is to build a sustainable “lion friendly” community, working in close collaboration with the Niassa Reserve Management Authority with local community members, and neighbours (through the Niassa Conservation Alliance) and other Mozambican partners.
Our goal is not to build an empire but to inspire all of the stakeholders to work together toward conservation goals that are appropriate to a protected area. Scaling and growth for their own sakes are not a goal – we believe in growing our influence through partnerships and collaboration. A multifaceted, holistic and adaptive approach that monitors success and allows for failure is essential. Sustainable conservation will take time, trust, innovation, and constant monitoring. Innovation means we will sometimes fail, but we consider failure a part of the adaptive governance process.