Four conservation stories from 2021 to make you smile

Image: Hutan

By |2022-08-17T13:54:21+00:00December 16th, 2021|Asian Species, Biocultural Diversity, Conservation Optimism, Freshwater, Indigenous Peoples, Ocean, Rivers, Southeast Asia, Youth|Comments Off on Four conservation stories from 2021 to make you smile

2021 has presented many challenges for conservation, with COVID-19 continuing to prevent safe engagement with communities, causing delays or cancellations to in-person events, and affecting marginalised communities the hardest. However, our team at Synchronicity Earth continue to be inspired by the resilience and resourcefulness of our partners, who continue to do extraordinary work to protect wildlife all around the world. It is our pleasure to share a small sample of their stories with you to end the year on a note of conservation optimism.

A blessed river

On a ridge next to a wide river, a man and a woman light an arrangement of around thirty yellow candles which have been pushed into an oval-shaped mound of sand.

Embedding local religious practices into river conservation has become an important part of Living River Association’s approach to protecting the Ing River. Image © LRA

The Ing River in Thailand holds some extraordinary freshwater wildlife from Jullien’s golden carp, a Critically Endangered fish with stunning gold stripes which can grow up to 165 centimetres and live up to fifty years, to the Asiatic softshell turtle with its leathery shell and olive-green skin and the Mekong freshwater stingray, which can be as wide as 62 centimetres.

However, the wildlife of this river has been declining due to an unhealthy mix of unsustainable fisheries and agriculture, hydropower development, and rapid climate change. For communities living along the Ing River in northern Thailand, fishing used to play a vital role in their everyday existence, but declining fish populations mean that the once strong connection between people and their wetlands is at risk of falling apart.

Faced by the urgency of the situation, a local organisation called Living River Association has implemented an ingenious approach which incorporates local religious practices into the management of Fish Conservation Zones.

The buddhist practice of river ordinations, a blessing ceremony in which a cable is strung across a river and hung with a monk’s robes, ordains a river the same way that people are ordained as monks. This ceremony solidifies the villagers’ respect for an existing Fish Conservation Zone, which strengthens its management and conservation impact.

Recognising this, Living River Association helped strengthen the management of existing Fish Conservation Zones by organising river ordinations in Buddhist communities and other blessing ceremonies in Christian communities. And the results speak for themselves. In one example, this practice has led to increases in the population of 17 freshwater species and the return of nine other species in only five years.

A love story: companionship in orangutans