What is SULi

The IUCN Sustainable Use and Livelihoods Specialist Group (SULi) is a global volunteer network formed by the International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in 2012, as a joint initiative of the Species Survival Commission (SSC) and the Commission on Environmental, Economic and Social Policy (CEESP). It aims to mobilise global expertise across the science, policy and practice sectors to address the urgent challenges of overexploitation of wild species and support robust, equitable models of sustainable use that meet human needs and priorities.

What is sustainable use?

Sustainable use is one of the three objectives of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. Sustainable use is defined by the CBD as “the use of components of biological diversity in a way and at a rate that does not lead to the long-term decline of biological diversity, thereby maintaining its potential to meet the needs and aspirations of present and future generations.” Click here to read the new SULi flyer on sustainable use or click here to access older IUCN documents on sustainable use

What are livelihoods?

Quite simply, a livelihood is means of making a living and securing the necessities of life. People’s livelihoods vary according to their cultures and aspirations and according to the assets they have to draw on – including land and natural resources, social networks and support systems, finance, personal attributes and capabilities and physical and physical assets such as roads, vehicles, telecommunications. In SULi we are predominantly concerned with the livelihoods of rural communities who live with and alongside wildlife and count on it as a real or potential asset that can support their livelihoods.

Latest News

New IUCN SSC SULi Activity Report (2020)

As a Specialist Group sitting jointly with the IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC), SULi is required to submit a report annually on its activities. Our 2020 report presents the impressive diversity of SULi’s work and its achievements in the IUCN (2017-2020) quadrennium. Thriving wild species provide diverse benefits to people, who are motivated and empowered to protect and conserve them. SULi continues to work towards global understanding on sustainable use of wild species.

Click here to check out the IUCN SSC SULi Report for 2020 or visit our Resources Page.

WELIGAMA, SRI LANKA – MARCH 18 2016: Fishermen sit on their stilts waiting for shoal of fish that will pass their stilts in the shallow water. This an old tradition practiced by around 500 fishing families in Galle, in southwestern-most Sri Lanka.

Aadhimalai Pazhangudiyinar Producer Company Limited Wins 2021 Equator Prize

SULi extends warmest congratulations to India’s Aadhimalai Pazhangudiyinar Producer Company Limited, Winner of the 2021 Equator Prize.  The award, organized by the Equator Initiative within the United Nations Development Programme, is awarded biennially to recognize outstanding community efforts to reduce poverty through the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.  Winners are selected based on impact; innovation; scalability and replicability; resilience, adaptability, and self-sufficiency; social inclusion; and gender equality.  This is a tremendous achievement.    

Aadhimalai came about as a result of the work of the Keystone Foundation, which was established in 1993 to work towards the development of indigenous people in India, particularly, the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve (NBR), where a number of hunter-gatherer communities were practicing honey hunting and subsistence agriculture.  In 1996, Keystone set up its first retail outlet – The Greenshop, which was a marketplace for products made by the tribal communities.  This first venture soon expanded, and as sustainable enterprises grew, stakeholders recognized a need to bring all value addition activities together under a single umbrella, while at the same time transferring control to the tribal community of the region.  On consultation with the leaders of the tribal communities in the NBR and legal consultants, it was decided to register the Farmer Producer Company in 2013.

Today, Aadhimalai is a 1,700-member cooperative, with a gender-balanced membership, managed and run entirely by Indigenous people from the NBR.  It improves livelihoods across 147 villages by processing and marketing a diverse range of forest products and crops.  Through local value addition, members earn premium prices on a wide range of sustainably collected local products such as honey, soap nuts and berries, and phoenix leaves, as well as organically cultivated products such as coffee, pepper, silk/cotton, cereals, spices, fruits, and more.  The Company also provides hands-on training for shareholders who regularly monitor harvesting and agricultural practices to ensure product quality and prevent overuse of resources, and for social enterprises across the region.

SULi recognizes that, globally, biodiverse-rich areas coincide with regions of high poverty.  Yet, often poor people have limited rights to access, use, and benefit from the biodiversity with which they live in close proximity.  In 2019, SULi collaborated with the Keystone Foundation to host a workshop in the NBR, bringing together experts who work on issues of human use of natural resources, conservation of biodiversity rich habitats, endangered species, policy, and governance to discuss what is working and what is not in terms of sustainable use in India.  The group brainstormed strategies to advance discussions of sustainable use and livelihoods alongside conservation and development, and determined conditions universally important to sustainable use in the region.  These included: a) empowering communities to manage resources by integrating traditional knowledge with official management practices; b) getting the young people equipped with skills to manage resources and carry forward their traditional uses; c) monitoring resources in the long term and understanding the ecological links to resource sharing with wildlife; d) consumer awareness and education about sustainable use and ecological links of wild resources; and e) science of sustainability needs to be communicated in simple/common language that speaks to many stakeholders.

“Aadhimalai is a leading example of a community owned and governed enterprise,” says SULi Member and Director of Biodiversity at the Keystone Foundation, Dr. Anita Varghese.  “Something noteworthy about the institution is that they represent one of the most neglected and marginalised peoples on the planet,” she continues. “When the company made their website in 2016, they used the line ‘shift the power’ and that, I feel, is what they have to tell the world.  Indigenous people, highly marginalised communities, are standing on their feet negotiating with the market and making a space for community owned enterprises.  In the long term they are in a position to get even stronger since they are based on the model of the circular economy by being ‘restorative and regenerative’.” 

The Aadhimalai Pazhangudiyinar Producer Company is an excellent example of how sustainable development solutions work for people and nature, to conserve biodiversity and to build resilient communities.  It demonstrates how, with strong governance and sound management, sustainable use could become the norm, rather than the exception, in India.  As Dr. Varghese notes, “Today, in pandemic times, we owe them big gratitude – more power to them.”    

Applying Indigenous and Local Knowledge (ILK) to IUCN Red List Assessments, Consultation: 25 August – 9 October 2021

Dear IUCN Members, Commission members and other relevant stakeholders,

Indigenous and Local Knowledge (ILK) has been developed over centuries or millennia by indigenous peoples and local communities (IPLCs) and is continuously evolving. It provides a unique and rich source of information on biodiversity. There has been increasing recognition over recent years that ILK has an important role to play in environmental decision-making, management, policy, and assessments.

In this regard, a guidance document for applying ILK to IUCN Red List assessment has been prepared under the authority of the IUCN SSC Red List Committee and the IUCN CEESP-SSC Sustainable Use and Livelihoods (SULi) Specialist Group. This document is now open to wide consultation to collect inputs from IUCN Members and other experts, from 25 August to 9 October 2021.

This initiative was catalysed by the publication of two papers (Hill et al. 2020) and (McElwee et al. 2020) dealing with the experience of working with indigenous and local knowledge in the IPBES Global Assessment (2019). It also follows discussions on application of ILK in IUCN Red List assessments over the last decade, including contributions to the unpublished draft: ‘Guidance for Integrating Indigenous and Local Knowledge (ILK) in IUCN Red List Assessments‘. All contributors to these processes are gratefully acknowledged.

The consultation will remain open until 9 October 2021. Only contributions using the template for comments provided in the links below will be considered. Note that all responses will be treated anonymously and your name and organisation will not be identified in the table that will provide responses to all the comments. This table will be made public and available.

We look forward to receiving your inputs for finalizing this important guidance document.

For more information, please contact: RL&ILK_consultation@iucn.org


With best regards,

Dilys Roe                                                                     Jon Hutton

Chair IUCN CEESP-SSC SULi                                    Chair IUCN SSC Red List Committee

Note: This process received funding support from the Ministry for Ecological Transition (MTE), Government of France. IUCN thanks the MTE for globally supporting IUCN’s engagement with IPBES in the frame of the IUCN-France Partnership.

Access / Download the Consultation Draft: http://iucnsuli.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/RL-ILK-Consultation-draft_25Aug2021_1.pdf.

Access / Download the Table for Comments (fillable PDF): http://iucnsuli.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/RL-ILK-table-for-comments-2nd-round-Consultation_fillable.pdf.

Valerius Geist 1938 – 2021

Dr. Valerius Geist, 2011
Dr. Valerius Geist, 2011

Contributed by: Shane Mahoney, SULi Deputy Chair

On July 6, 2021, SULi and the wider conservation world were saddened to learn of the passing of well-known Canadian scientist Dr. Valerius Geist, a pioneer in the field-based study of large mammal ecology, and a celebrated author, educator, wildlife advocate, hunter and friend. Dr. Geist was 83 years old and died in Port Alberni, British Columbia. He will be missed and remembered by an inordinately wide network of friends, students and colleagues around the world. A man of rare intellectual capacity, Valerius Geist possessed an infectious energy and optimism, as well as an extraordinary kindness and willingness to engage. His curiosity was insatiable and his capacity for work, simply astounding. But most of us who knew and admired him will forever best remember his great and unyielding humanness, his warmth and embracing smile. He was a rarely gifted man and it was a rare privilege to have known him well.

Among many other achievements, Valerius Geist was originally and perhaps best known as the foremost expert on the biology, behavior, and social dynamics of North American wild sheep, though his research and detailed writings covered an extraordinary spectrum of large mammal biology and also a wide range of topics relevant to human evolution, sociobiology and conservation science.  The latter included detailed studies of environmental design, theories on human ecology, health and the origins of art, ungulate breeding behaviour, taxonomy and diversification, carnivore behaviour and predator-prey relationships, and numerous, wide-ranging aspects of wildlife management policy and practise, perhaps most notably on the disease risks and conservation perils of game ranching.

Known to many as the “Professor Doctor,” Geist was recognized internationally for his ground-breaking scientific research, his voluminous published works, his insightful conservation philosophy, and for his outspoken views and advocacy for science-based wildlife management.  He was the leading authority on the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation, and was, in fact, the first to use this term to refer to the unique and shared institutional approach to wildlife management policies in Canada and the United States.  He first articulated the Model’s core principles in the early 1990s.

Born in Nikolayev, USSR, on 2 February 1938, and raised in Austria and Germany, and then emigrating to Canada as a teenager in 1953, Dr. Geist held both an honours B.Sc. in zoology (1960) and a Ph.D. in zoology (1967) from the University of British Columbia.  His doctoral thesis, On the behavior and evolution of American Mountain Sheep, was supervised by famed Canadian ecologist, Ian McTaggart-Cowan (1910-2010). 

In 1961, Valerius married Renate Geist, nee Brall (1937-2014), a talented biologist and deep intellectual in her own right who provided the English translation of multiple volumes of Grzimek’s Animal Encyclopedia, a near “bible” for every zoo in the world.  They had three children together, Rosemarie, Karl, and Harold. 

In 1967, the family travelled to Germany where Dr. Geist had been awarded a postdoctoral fellowship at the Max Planck Institute for Behavioral Physiology and where he studied under Nobel Laureate Konrad Lorenz (1903-1989), one of the founders of modern ethology. In 1968, the Geists returned to Canada and Dr. Geist accepted an assistant professorship at the University of Calgary, Alberta.  He remained with the University of Calgary for nearly three decades and would go on to become a founding member and first Program Director of Environmental Science in the Faculty of Environmental Design and, later, an Associate Dean.  In 1994, he officially retired and was awarded the position of Professor Emeritus of Environmental Science. The reminder of his life was spent in Port Alberni, British Columbia, where he and Mrs. Geist devoted their time to gardening, animal husbandry and endless discussions with friends, neighbours and colleagues. That period, up until Mrs. Geist’s death in 2014, were indeed golden years, and their home was a rare bastion of warmth, hopefulness and grace.

Over the course of his career, Valerius Geist authored or co-authored 23 books; 7 policy reports; more than 150 peer-reviewed papers, book chapters, and commentaries; over 50 entries in 19 encyclopaedias; more than 130 popular article and book chapters; and more than 30 book reviews. His curriculum vitae reflects an extraordinary life of work and accomplishment. His first book, Mountain Sheep: A Study in Behavior and Evolution (1971) won both the Wildlife Society’s 1972 Book of the Year Award and the Alberta Achievement Award.  Subsequent books were awarded the Alberta Society of Professional Biologists’ Peggy Thompson Award (1995 & 1996); the Saskatchewan Award for Publishing (1996); the Mid-America Publishers Association’s Best Nature/Environment Book First Prize (1997); and both the International Council of Game and Wildlife Conservation’s Technical Writing Prize and Culture Prize (1998 & 1999). In 2004, he won the Wilderness Defenders Award from the Alberta Wilderness Association.

A dedicated hunter and strong proponent of sustainable wildlife use as a conservation mechanism, Dr. Geist was a Professional Member of the Boone and Crockett Club, as well as a member of the International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation.  He believed that with active wildlife management and care, humans could not only safeguard but enhance the biodiversity and productivity of ecosystems.  He was a revolutionary intellectual force and a tremendous teacher, embracing new ideas, challenges, and successes with equal vigour. He will be remembered not just for his academic brilliance, but for his larger-than-life personality, his relentless curiosity, his bold outlook, and his incredible capacity to give of himself – to share his knowledge, his insights, and his courage with others. He was one of the greatest zoologists of modern times, of that there can be no doubt.  He was also an irreplaceable mentor and friend.  His legacy will live on in the ideas he gave us and the lessons on humanity and nature that he taught.

Symposium / Workshop: “Community Management of Wildlife in Latin America: SULi-IUCN Strategy and Impacts of COVID-19.”

This month, Peru is hosting the most important event in wildlife management in Latin America, the XIV International Congress of Wildlife Management of the Amazon and Latin America (XIV Cimfauna), which is taking place virtually from 8 – 12 November.

Within this wider context, SULi/SSC – IUCN Latin America is hosting a virtual Symposium Workshop on 11 November titled, “Community Management of Wildlife in Latin America: SUL-IUCN Strategy and Impacts of COVID-19.”  Co-organizers include SERNANP, SERFOR, UNALM, PUCP, and WCS – Perú.  The event will be held in two parts.  Part one, from 9:00 – 12:00, will present experiences of community wildlife management in Latin America; the conclusions from the “Lima Wildlife Management Congress,” held in 2019; and, the SULi-IUCN strategy, focusing on community management from a Latin American perspective.  Part two, from 17:00 – 20:00, will present the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on community wildlife management and benefit sharing in Latin America.  During each part, attendees will view a moderated series of 15-minute presentations and then have an opportunity to pose comments and to participate in a question-and-answer session. Speakers will include regional experts, as well as representatives of indigenous peoples and local communities.

For more information, please contact Marina Rosales by email at mrbenites2002@yahoo.es.  

To view the agenda, please click here.

A bably llama and it’s mother look into the lens with a mountain in the background on the Bolivian Altiplano