Protecting endangered wildlife through landscape conservation

It’s a fact: Mother Earth is in trouble, and it is the fault of humans.

Science tells us we are experiencing a “sixth mass extinction on Earth,” a large-scale die-off of plants and animals, largely due to human interference.

This Endangered Species Day, it’s time to look to ourselves to find the big and little solutions that will, at the very least, slow the demise of so many of the creatures that share this planet we all call home.

The “Red List” of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) currently features 79,800 species with more than 23,000 threatened with extinction; that includes 41 percent of amphibians, 34 percent of conifers, 33 percent of corals, 25 percent of mammals and 13 percent of birds.

Most recently, researchers announced that human activities, namely poaching, have reduced elephant populations in 73 protected areas to just 25 percent of what they would have been. This research over 10 years was partly funded by IFAW.

Here at IFAW we are looking for solutions via our Landscape Conservation Programme. This new programme has evolved from the more familiarly titled Elephant Programme, and was born from the understanding that we must address a host of threats and challenges at various levels, far beyond those of elephant habitats.

Landscape Conservation does not merely take into account the physical appearance of a landscape; it addresses the needs of both people and animals. IFAW is strategically working to protect key wildlife species in specific places in a holistic way through animal welfare, rescue and rehabilitation of species, sound science-based conservation methods, community engagement, and wildlife protection efforts.

The following are some species we are particularly focused on at the moment:


Pangolins are one of the most endangered animals poached for their scales which, like rhino horn, are made of the same substance as human hair and nails and have no medicinal value. Despite all eight species being listed on Appendix I of CITES preventing any trade, seizures of illegally shipped pangolin scales and even live animals are becoming more frequent with, among others, China intercepting a three-tonne shipment in December and Malaysia confiscating 700 kg of scales in just two weeks in early May 2017.


The killing of rhinos for their horns continues unabated, with more than 7,000 rhinos being killed for their horns in a decade. Last year, poaching in South Africa, where rhinos are most under threat, declined slightly from the previous year with 1,054 rhinos killed in 2016.

Barbary macaques

The illegal pet trade is a significant contributor to the decline in populations of the Barbara macaque, the only non-human primate occurring north of the Sahara. Once common in North Africa, only 6,500 - 9,100 individuals remain in Morocco and Algeria with a small population of 200 on the Rock of Gibraltar. The total population of macaques has declined 50-80 percent in the past 30 years.


A recently released study has found that elephant populations stand at only 25 percent of what they should be due to human encroachment (mostly due to poaching). Elephants are killed namely for their ivory which is in high demand in the Far East. Last year, media reports showed that at least 20 tonnes of illegal ivory was seized by law enforcers.

African lions

It has been estimated that a million African lions existed in Africa in pre-colonial times, occupying all ecological niches except the driest of deserts and the wettest of rain forests. However, lion populations have been significantly reduced as a result of indiscriminate killing due to human-wildlife conflict, habitat loss, loss of prey, hunting for bush meat and sport hunting. Additionally, there is a significant trade in lion parts and products, mostly to the Far East where the use of lion bones for medicinal purposes appears to be on the increase. Last year, a bid to have African lions included on CITES Appendix I failed allowing South Africa to continue with lion bone trade. Earlier this year, South Africa said it would allow the trade in the bones of up to 800 lions during 2017.

African grey parrots

African grey parrots are highly prized as pets for their extraordinary capacity for acoustic learning and retention. They are an extremely vocal parrot and their ability to mimic human language makes them a target for traders. Historically found in great numbers across West and Central Africa, populations have reduced by as much as 90 percent in some range states, mostly due to the live pet trade, habitat destruction and fragmentation. 

Endangered Species Day reminds us of the trouble facing so many species on this planet, and that it is up to all of us to take action. Let’s all take action to save wildlife.


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Azzedine Downes,IFAW President and CEO
President and Chief Executive Officer
Beth Allgood, Country Director, United States
Country Director, United States
Cynthia Milburn, Director, Animal Welfare Outreach & Education
Senior Advisor, Policy Development
Faye Cuevas, Esq.
Senior Vice President
Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
Regional Director, Asia
Jason Bell, Vice President for Conservation and Animal Welfare
Vice President for Conservation and Animal Welfare
Jimmiel Mandima at IFAW
Deputy Vice President of Conservation
Executive Vice President
Executive Vice President
Matt Collis, Director, International Policy
Director, International Policy
Patrick Ramage, Program Director, Whales
Program Director, Marine Conservation
Rikkert Reijnen, Program Director, Wildlife Crime
Program Director, Wildlife Crime