Conservation in developing countries is hindered both by a lack of local scientific capacity and an often limited appreciation of the importance of biodiversity among the community. Education can address these problems by building capacity, enlightening people and changing human behavior. During the 2015 Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC),Asia-Pacific Chapter meeting, a conservation education symposium“Building capacity for conservation in Southeast Asia” was held to evaluate a selection of Southeast Asian conservation education programs, and distil lessons from them.
The presentations detailed initiatives undertaken throughout Southeast Asia by governments, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and educational institutions. The Advanced Fieldcourse in Ecology and Conservation (AFEC) at Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden (XTBG) was introduced at the symposium.
The conservation education programs detailed at the symposium fell into three categories: career development, project-specific activities and outreach, and delivering conservation information to diverse audiences.
At the Symposium, Alice C. Hughes and Liu Jingxin of XTBG presented “Developing key skills for the next generation of conservation ecologists” and “Reviewing Six Years of the Program for Field Studies in Tropical Asia”respectively.They gave a detailed introduction to AFEC-X initiated in 2009 in XTBG.
By summing up the education programs, researchers recommend a range of strategies that can improve future conservation education programs. These include collaboration between different programs (e.g., degree courses) and institutions, fostering a sense of community among students (which can range from within a village to international) and targeting the message to resonate with distinct groups (e.g., age, gender, ethnicity, religion, and level of education).