02 juni 2009


The field worker: a non priority species?

There are many people in this world who dedicate their life to saving specific species or habitats. These are brave people. People in the field. People who make a difference. Who set aside their academic ambitions or combine the efforts to achieve their actual goal. And their dream.

Often these brave people work under very hard circumstances, earn very little money and give up a stability and safety, because they know, that it they don’t persist, probably nobody will care enough, so this is the price they pay.

These people, like many of my friends, are the people who make a difference. Who know the field, who know their subjects, who know the local situation, the status and the prospect. Little efforts have large impacts, and they can only be achieved by people who are actually IN the field doing the work.

Then why, I wonder, are exactly these people always struggling to get by? Very low incomes, uncertainty on future work, often no base to live etc. Are these people not doing 80% more effective work than NGO employees who travel around the world to ridiculously expensive workshops and conferences, flying business class only to TALK about conservation instead of taking ACTION?

The cost of one conference could probably provide one field worker with a 5-10 year salary. But in stead, the field worker is writing funding proposals to every fund they can find, just to make sure that they can continue their very important work, while others are sipping champagne at the opening ceremony of yet another conference in Barbardos!

It makes me angry. And disappointed, that the field worker seems to be a forgotten species, and many important conservation decisions (and funding decisions!) are made by conference lovers who have never set a foot in the field. Maybe we need a conservation programme for the field workers. Status Endangered!

Recently one of the larger global conservation NGO’s, of whom I will not mention the name, expressed an opinion that shocked me. I will not go into details, but literally they said that the Barbary macaque is in their eyes “not a priority species”.


Indeed, the fact that there are only around 3000 macaques left in the wild in Morocco, maybe 3500 in the world, and that the species is declining with a rate so fast that extinction is not so far away, the fact that they recently shifted the species to status “endangered” , the only primate in North Africa, the only primate North of the Sahara, the only macaque outside of Asia…..and there are LESS Barbary macaques than Sumatran orangutans left……..is not enough to call them a priority species??????

Maybe this NGO should organise a workshop in Morocco, not in luxury, but in the field, to see what the reality is. The money of their beneficiaries would be much better spent!

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