OSB archive
OSB archive

Wild skills where they're needed

Pete Wilton

How do you help developing countries protect their precious wildlife?

One approach, being piloted at Oxford, is a new Postgraduate Diploma in International Conservation Practice.

The Diploma, which will officially start in 2009, will aim to give those involved in conservation the scientific and professional skills to help preserve biodiversity and improve wildlife management.

The initiative is a joint venture between Oxford's Department for Continuing Education and the WildCRU, part of Oxford's Department of Zoology.

Thanks to a donation from The Panthera Foundation and its Chairman, Thomas Kaplan, Oxford is able to offer fully-funded scholarships for conservationists from developing countries to take the Diploma.

Wild cats will be a special focus for the programme, with the pilot group including biologists with expertise on tigers in China, leopards in Iran, lions in Tanzania and lynx in the Balkans - each facing their own special set of challenges.

The WildCRU's Director David Macdonald commented: 'This new diploma will not only make a great contribution to building conservation capacity in parts of the world where action is urgently needed on the ground - it will be a milestone in opening access to Oxford.'

'Our focus on big cats will take the students to the heart of the most challenging conservation issues, and the new course will lead to the creation of a worldwide force of expert problem-solvers who can take their training home and pass it on to others.'

Big cats are known to be good indicators of the health of a particular ecosystem. The hope is that the knowledge and skills gained by those taking the Diploma will help them to get to grips with the complex issues that determine the health of a wide range of species and habitats.