As nature conservation was a new concept in the Arab world, the founders of The Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature set about making change in the best way they knew how, while picking up new skills along the way. In 1966, their main concern was the drastic fall in numbers of animal species due to illegal hunting and general blatant disregard for the natural world. Thus, these pioneers began working with the government to establish ground rules to control and regulate hunting. As a result of their commitment and fervor, by 1973 RSCN was officially given the responsibility of issuing hunting licenses and establishing hunting patrols to enforce hunting laws in Jordan. Their dedication became a legacy which was carried on to fruition in 1995 with the formulation of the first Jordanian Environmental Protection Law and the establishment of an Environmental Police Unit in 2006.
In order to reverse the existing damage done to Jordan’s precious wildlife, RSCN instigated efforts to replenish the numbers of endangered species, which had been brought to the edge of extinction locally due to indiscriminate hunting, with its introduction of captive breeding programs (link to Shaumari page). In 1975, the first nature reserve in Jordan, located in Shaumari near Azraq, was established as grounds for breeding such threatened species as the magnificent Arabian Oryx, gazelles, ostriches, and Persian Onagers in captivity, and releasing them into their natural habitats. These successful captive breeding programs mark one of the first accomplishments in RSCNs history.
Since that time, RSCN has gone on to establish eleven protected areas scattered throughout Jordan, covering over 1200 square kilometers in some of the finest natural landscapes in the country that are home to a vast array of precious wildlife. Over the span of 40 years, RSCN has fulfilled its public service mandate by overseeing the management of six protected areas: Shaumari, Azraq, Dana, Wadi Mujib, Ajloun, and Dibeen. RSCN established these sites as nature reserves, and supported ASEZAs management of Wadi Rum Protect Area through continued guidance and training.
In 1994, RSCN established its Research & Survey Section to carry out ecological field research, in conjunction with the establishment of Dana Nature Reserve. After years of concentrated training and fieldwork, RSCNs team of experienced researchers is now capable of performing the necessary baseline surveys and providing the raw data needed to develop a nature reserve management plan based on a scientific foundation.
Due to the core need for a fundamental change in people’s attitudes and behaviors towards nature, RSCN has focused on helping to create future generations of more environmentally conscious and concerned individuals through environmental education programs. In 1986, RSCN started its first Nature Conservation Clubs in schools to help children understand the significance of certain environmental issues, while getting them actively involved in conservation projects. Today, there are over 1000 Nature Conservation Clubs throughout the Kingdom, which are operated by a network of club leaders who are trained in exciting and innovative methods of environmental education. To spread further awareness, RSCN has also cooperated with the Ministry of Education to include several key conservation concepts within the national curriculum, while providing educational programs in the reserves.
RSCN embarked on a new path to nature conservation in an effort to improve the quality of life of local communities located in and around protected areas and maintain their support for conservation. In 1994, RSCN entered a new era of nature conservation with its establishment of Dana Biosphere Reserve as a model of integrated conservation and socio-economic development, aiming to meet the needs of both nature and people. By initiating nature-based businesses of handicrafts and organic foods production, RSCN created jobs for local community members, providing improved livelihoods for poor rural communities. Furthermore, through the establishment of eco-tourism programs, locals began to benefit from protecting the integrity of their naturally beautiful environment, thus increasing their appreciation and support for conservation efforts.
Building on the success of the Dana initiative, Wild Jordan was created as the business arm of RSCN to develop similar socio-economic programs in all of Jordan's nature reserves. Wild Jordan now manages innovative income generating programs that build on locally available skills and products and on the tourism potential of the nature reserves.
After years of conservation work, RSCN is confident of its ability to transfer its acquired knowledge to similar nature protection entities in the Arab world that sought to learn from its rich and fruitful experience. Thus, in 1999, RSCN began its first regional training program, providing training and capacity building to environmental practitioners and other institutions throughout Jordan and the Middle East in an attempt to empower others in their efforts to protect the environment.
RSCN first recognized the substantial power of a people united in 2005, when it launched “Save Jordan’s Trees” Campaign hand-in-hand with several other environmental agencies and a group of volunteers from various sectors, successfully blocking the government’s proposal to amend the agricultural law of 2005. In order to impassion others to take action in furthering the cause of nature, RSCN has begun working to institutionalize its efforts in this new but important field, organizing more campaigns and activities to advocate environmental protection, attempting to influence the plans of decision-makers in the hopes of creating a greener and more sustainable future for Jordan.
RSCNs membership program stems from the time of the original founders of RSCN, who were dedicated volunteers striving to affect change in any way they could because they believed in people’s ability to make a difference. Holding firmly to this faith, RSCN continues to invite all individuals who are invested in wildlife and environmental conservation to become voices for nature, protecting that which cannot protect itself.
RSCN has long realized the necessity for remaining a strong and dynamic institution, capable of responding to increasing demands and responsibilities, in order to effectively and efficiently fulfill its role in protecting and caring for Jordan’s biodiversity. Its future is built on the continued determination of its staff and stakeholders, who strongly believe in each individual’s ability to create change through hard work and commitment to a solid vision.