Credits: Longimanus Tauchen
Award winner 2015
Location: Mozambique

Karen Allen

“The Bazaruto Archipelago National Park (BANP) in Mozambique is home to east Africa’s last remaining viable dugong population (approximately only 250 individuals). The most significant threats to Bazaruto’s dugongs are illegal gill netting industry, as dugongs get entangled as by-catch and drown, and habitat loss from artisanal seine-netting, which damages and uproots the fragile sea grass beds the dugongs feed on. The Park’s five islands support 5,500 local residents of the Tsonga tribe who rely heavily on marine resources as their primary livelihood. I recognize that while poverty and single income-generating activities remain commonplace in the Bazaruto region, and while the National Park remains under-resourced, long–term dugong conservation will not be achieved.

In my view, species conservation brings the world’s focus onto larger ecosystems that are sometimes “unseen” or unconsidered. It provides the impetus for broader conservation interventions that can benefit species and habitats alike through a landscape approach. Through conserving Bazaruto’s dugongs, I hope to improve the overall conservation management of the Bazaruto Archipelago National Park and its diverse and sensitive habitats.

I believe species conservation can also be a catalyst to uplift and develop the often-impoverished human communities who share a species’ habitat. By elevating dugongs as a flagship species, I hope to leverage funds and international support, and to secure partners to help develop a range of sustainable alternative income-generating activities for the Park’s resident fishing communities. My long-term approach is to facilitate sustainable use of marine resources to alleviate pressure on species and habitats. Resources that are well-regulated and ecosystems that are not over-exploited will last and continue to provide basic needs for both wild species and local communities into the future.”

Karen has written a blog for us:

I’ve always maintained- hope floats. Hope (and possibly coffee) is an unremitting constant in my life. I live it mostly in Mozambique, in a marine National Park, on an island called Benguerra, alongside endangered Dugongs and the Vahoka people. It’s been said that I’m a strong advocate for perseverance too- a quality, when combined with hope, makes almost anything possible by my calculation. These vital elements are what I believe have enabled me to become an effective conservationist. These are no doubt two of the traits that won me a 2015 Future For Nature Award, and are the essentials in a conservationist’s arsenal.

In today’s age- an age of extensive consumerism, excessive natural resource extraction, climate change, un-checked population explosion, and significant biodiversity loss- the few people who have taken up the task of protecting the planet or parts thereof; have to hope in the possibility of change, and persevere to effect that change. I’m talking about the change of a mind set. Saving planet earth (and ensuring our continued existence here) can only happen if human beings change their behavior to consume more responsibly. If we don’t make this one change, we have little chance of a future; no chance at clean water and air, no predictable weather patterns to create favorable conditions for crop growth, no more life in acidic oceans, no ecosystem services that we take for granted- not a single hope left at all.  Conservationists are the hope of our planet, we are the overwhelmed soldiers who fight to maintain all that is essential to sustain life on earth and to strike a balance between both human and environmental needs. But we are outnumbered. The future of this planet cannot rest in our hands alone, not when there are over 6 billion people responsible for its wellbeing.  

And this is why I urge you to join me today- and change just a few ways that you consume. How? Try eating sustainable fish and wild venison as opposed to animals grown in transformed landscapes and feedlots, recycle, don’t use plastic bags and avoid products that are packaged in plastic, grow your own greens, buy fruit that’s in season, save water, harvest rain.  And if you’re also addicted to coffee- why not try the organic and fair-trade varieties? Small lifestyle adjustments will be the waves of positive change. Come ride this wave with me.  

“Karen has demonstrated clear dedication and courage in her chosen crusade and seems to be well integrated into local conservation efforts. Demonstration of sustained livelihood for local fisherman in the context of an important marine reserve and a highly vulnerable flagship species is an important model deserving much support and recognition.” – 2015, John MacKinnon, International Selection Commitee


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