Chinese Philanthropists Support Hirola Sanctuary

Hirola Slideshow

See the hirola in its natural habitat.

A group of Chinese entrepreneurs is ushering in a new era in conservation philanthropy through a groundbreaking donation to conservation work in Africa.

The donation will be made through the China Global Conservation Fund, which was recently announced by Jack Ma, founder and CEO of Alibaba Group, alongside The Nature Conservancy’s president and CEO Mark Tercek. The fund was initiated by the Conservancy’s China Board of Trustees and is already providing a growing class of Chinese philanthropists with an opportunity to support high-impact conservation projects around the world.

In Kenya, The Nature Conservancy is collaborating with the Northern Rangelands Trust, the Kenya Wildlife Service and Fauna & Flora International to save the critically endangered hirola antelope, of which fewer than 500 remain. This project will receive $500,000 and become the first beneficiary of the new fund.

“This generous and important gift from the China Global Conservation Fund will support immediate conservation priorities in northern Kenya, including our race to save the hirola from extinction,” Tercek said. “It also will help efforts to hone and perfect a model of community-led conservation for future expansion to other priority landscapes in Africa.”

Environmental problems no longer stop at political borders. Greenhouse gas emissions created in one country can affect the climate of the whole planet. Hydropower development affects entire river basins. Demand for forest products and illegal wildlife consumption often bring about irreparable resource loss and environmental degradation in developing countries.

“Conservation groups must adapt to this new globalized world and address conservation issues on a global scale in order to maintain relevance and effectiveness,” said David Banks, TNC’s Africa program director.

Chinese citizens are becoming increasingly active in helping find solutions to these new global environmental problems, a spirit embodied in this new fund. “The force of change in China is impressive,” said Banks. “Most attention in the media and the conservation world has focused on how this force is having negative effects on Africa’s lands and waters. But this new fund demonstrates hope in the form of Chinese leadership helping the people of Africa secure nature of global and local importance.”

The China Global Conservation Fund will support international conservation work that is creating new wealth and new opportunities that benefit people at all levels of society. The fund’s resources will come from individual donors worldwide and will be administered by an executive committee comprised of donors to the fund as well as Conservancy experts.

“As you all know, we are now all part of a global economy,” Ma said as he announced this fund to The Nature Conservancy’s board of directors last month, “and China’s economic rise has created an opportunity and also a responsibility for the Chinese people to play a leading role in helping address the world’s environmental problems.

“It is also clear that TNC is the right partner to help China play that role by channeling its wealth toward international conservation projects that are aiming at helping communities find global solutions to global challenges.”

The fund is also a major component of the Conservancy’s new China-based cross-regional initiative, Conservation Beyond Borders, which will connect development projects in Africa, Latin America, and Asia Pacific with Chinese businesses, banks and agencies to find solutions that better balance development and conservation.

“The Northern Rangelands Trust through TNC welcome and applaud the generous support of the China Global Conservation Fund towards the Abdullah community’s efforts to save hirola from extinction,” said Ian Craig, chief executive officer of NRT. “This is a wonderful example of how the protection of our environment cuts across every member of society on this planet and is a responsibility that knows no borders.”

The fund’s first practical application in Africa is targeted at linking conservation and human well-being. “The Nature Conservancy’s vision for Africa is rooted in its people, who have not always been at the table when creating a plan for a sustainable future,” said Banks. “Success for TNC means involving local communities in creating innovative solutions to the most urgent conservation challenges. In this case, it means helping the people of the Ishaqbini Community Conservancy lead efforts to protect the hirola and their own future.”


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