Who can best secure Africa's remaining habitats and wildlife?
Much of that question can only be answered by those who share their lands with predators and other powerful wildlife.
While Africa's autonomy shouldn't exclude outside assistance, those most severely impacted by rural poverty and human-wildlife conflict deserve a voice. Put simply, but far from easy to implement, conservation is as much about helping people as it is about safeguarding natural resources and promoting biodiversity.
As it is with Africa's wildlife, so too should it be in other parts of the world, particularly those places home to what science author David Quammen refers to as alpha predators. As he writes in his book Monster of God, "the hardships of living with alpha predators are borne largely by the world’s poorest and most disenfranchised people."
Therein lies what is arguably the greatest gap between those rightfully advocating on behalf of these beasts of myth and legend and those rightfully living in very real fear of what they are capable of. To bridge that gap will involve much more than clinging to idealistic notions of nature, despite temptations to do so. What it will take is scientific, social, and economic research, listening intently to those living with wildlife, and a willingness to see the world objectively through the eyes of both the creatures whose numbers are dwindling and those who have the potential to either save or destroy them.
For conservation to work in Africa, indeed anywhere on Earth, it is imperative to pay heed to the voices of local people―wildlife's greatest hope for survival.