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Boosting Wildlife Conservation: The Power of Project Management

Managing wildlife conservation projects efficiently is crucial in the face of increasing threats to biodiversity. While project management principles have proven successful in various industries, their application in conservation efforts remains limited. However, a study titled "The Role of Project Management in Threatened Species Recovery" by Madelon Willemsen, Julien Pollack and Chivonne Algeo reveals how integrating project management practices can significantly enhance the effectiveness of wildlife conservation programs. This article provides a concise overview of the study's key findings, highlighting the challenges faced by recovery programs and the potential of project management to improve outcomes.

Challenges in Wildlife Recovery

The study identifies eight core challenges that impact species recovery based on analysis of senate enquiries and interviews with recovery experts. These challenges include the lack of project management integration, undefined decision-making processes, unclear measures of recovery success, ineffective recovery teams, complex technical aspects, a gap between scientific knowledge and practical implementation, shifting responsibility and accountability, and limited funding.

The Role of Project Management

The authors argue that wildlife conservationists often overlook project management principles in favour of technical recovery competencies. However, incorporating project management perspectives can enhance recovery success rates by emphasising the contextual and behavioural competencies required for effective project management and implementation. By integrating project management practices, recovery programs can benefit from improved planning, risk assessment, and stakeholder engagement.

Key Focus Areas for Improvement

The study highlights three key areas where project management principles can enhance wildlife recovery programs: project life cycle, risk management, and stakeholder management.

Project Life Cycle: Many recovery programs lack a standardised project life cycle approach, resulting in fragmented management activities. Integrating project management practices into recovery planning can lead to improved prioritisation, budgeting, stakeholder engagement, and the establishment of achievable objectives, thereby enhancing overall program effectiveness.

Risk Management: Effective risk assessment and mitigation strategies are essential for decision-making and prioritising funding. However, risk management is often limited to assessing success or failure and allocating funding in recovery programs. By incorporating risk management as a project process, programs can reduce uncertainty, increase transparency, and enable timely action.

Stakeholder Management: Proper identification, understanding, and active engagement of stakeholders are crucial for successful conservation projects. Unfortunately, stakeholder management is often neglected in recovery program management. By integrating stakeholder management practices throughout program delivery, conservationists can facilitate smoother progress and achieve better outcomes.

Enhancing Conservationists' Project Management Capabilities

The article emphasises the importance of developing project management capabilities among conservationists. The skills gap and lack of project management training hinder effective conservation programs. By providing project management training and engaging formal project managers who can handle both technical and soft aspects, conservationists can improve program implementation and success.

Polar Bear and her Cub on the ice
Photo by Hans Jurgen Mager

Conclusion and Future Research

Integrating project management principles into wildlife conservation programs can address the identified challenges and enhance their effectiveness. This requires reframing traditional approaches and embracing cross-disciplinary perspectives. While the effectiveness of this approach remains largely untested due to limited adoption, future research could involve implementing project management practices in individual recovery programs and evaluating their impact. This would provide further insights into the role of project management in achieving successful wildlife conservation outcomes.

By embracing project management principles, wildlife conservationists can navigate the complexities of species recovery more effectively, improve planning and implementation, and increase the chances of successful conservation outcomes.


To read the research paper, "The Role of Project Management in Threatened Species Recovery" by Madelon Willemsen, Julien Pollack and Chivonne Algeo, please click here.

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