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Committing to Conservation
I am fortunate on this Mardi Gras day to be in the beautiful city of Seattle attending the 2011 Zoos and Aquariums Committing to Conservation conference. There are 260 attendees here from 23 countries. These delegates are some of the best and brightest professionals working to save endangered animals and their habitats from, well, humans. A meeting like this has the potential to get one down. They quote gloomy statistics like: 20% of the earth’s vertebrates are threatened with extinction and it’s getting worse by the day. I hear that tigers may not be around in the wild in a few short years and that a rare Hirola Hartebeest may be extinct before anyone even knows what they are (they are really cool-look them up!) and I start to feel stressed. The people at this meeting don’t feel that way though, they refuse to accept that nothing can be done.
I jot down notes on my PooPooPaper, munch on my fair trade sustainable dark chocolate bar and listen to these people talk about saving Painted dogs by preserving the trees of the ecosystem; saving elephants with chili pepper barriers; and saving lions by educating the children. Everyone here has hope. I have hope.
The Audubon Nature Institute has made great strides in conservation in a lot of areas: Whooping Cranes, Louisiana Pine Snakes, and Mississippi Gopher Frogs-to name a few. There are also pet projects for many of the zookeepers who work on field projects on their own time and with their own funds. Audubon Zoo education now partners with several conservation projects such as Camp Uganda, palm oil education, the Giant River Otters and the Snow Leopard Trust. We want to do more, that’s why I am here. I am here to find the next steps for conservation for the Audubon Zoo. I want to learn the strategies for saving the world’s most endangered animals and ecosystems. There is no “wild” anymore; all animals are affected by human action. We have to try to fix what we have broken and we all have to work together.
I hope to make connections and find more possible collaborations. I appreciate the generosity of everyone who has already helped support our programs, but I’m going to come back with even more ideas and ways that you can help. Stay tuned.