Friday, August 5, 2011

International Rhino Foundation: Protecting the Rhinos of the world

International Rhino Foundation logo
The International Rhino Foundation (IRF) was founded over 20 years ago to combat the threats of poaching to the black rhinoceros Diceros bicornis.  The foundation's work with the black rhino has been so successful (poaching was nearly eliminated) that the foundation soon decided to expand  activities towards protection of all five species of rhinoceros.  The foundation is and always has been run almost entirely by volunteer labor, made up of field biologists, zoo employees, and conservation biologists from around the world, with a handful of paid employees for dealing with any daily requirements.  The foundation's partners include the American Association of Zoo Keepers, a large number of zoos (e.g. the Albuquerque Zoo, Jacksonville Zoo, Basel Zoo, Los Angeles Zoo, Marwell Zoo, Brookfield Zoo, Oregon Zoo, Cincinnati Zoo, Philadelphia Zoo, Columbus Zoo, San Diego Zoo, Disney's Animal Kingdom, Denver Zoo, Erie Zoo, Toronto Zoo, Fossil Rim Wildlife Center, White Oak Conservation Center, Fort Worth Zoo, Indianapolis Zoo, Taronga Zoo, Gladys Porter Zoo, Tulsa Zoo, Dallas Zoo, Great Plains Zoo, etc. etc.), and a mix of business interests, foundations and conservation organizations (e.g. Blue Rhino, Ecko Unlimited, Lee and Ramona Bass Foundation,  IUCN Species Survival Commission, Yayasan Badak Indonesia, etc. etc.), all of which work together to protect all species of rhinos.

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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Chester Zoo: Another zoo leading the way in conservation

Chester Zoo logo
Chester Zoo in England is another world-class zoo which is making a huge conservation difference globally.  Originally opened in 1931, from its earliest days Chester Zoo has been on the cutting edge of zoo technology and thinking.  They have one of the larger and most comprehensive conservation commitments from any zoo globally.  They are involved in training and assisting employees working with endangered species in situ (in their native lands), captive breeding animals ex situ (not in their native lands; i.e. at Chester Zoo for non-native species), assisting with reintroducing captive bred endangered species back into their native habitat, sponsoring research about endangered species biology, and minimizing threats by formulating educational programs.

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Sunday, July 17, 2011

Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Programme: Protecting the Most Endangered Dog in the World

Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Programme logo
The Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Programme (EWCP) was founded in 1995 by Claudio Sillero (who is also one of the people responsible for founding the Andean Cat Alliance) in an attempt to reverse the headlong plummet of Ethiopian wolves Canis simensis towards extinction.  The Ethiopian wolf is the most endangered canid (dog), with less than 450 left alive today.  The Ethiopian wolf's greatest threats come from encroachment of humans and all that brings with it: habitat loss for agriculture, road building, diseases brought from domestic dogs, and human hunting to eliminate perceived threats to livestock.

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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Peregrine Fund: Saving the birds of prey of the world

The Peregrine Fund logo
The Peregrine Fund was founded in 1970 by Tom Cade, an ornithology professor at Cornell University to save the peregrine falcon Falco peregrinus from disappearing from the western United States and reintroduce it back into the eastern United States.  A captive breeding program with reintroduction of offspring was initiated and was wildly successful.  Consequently, the Peregrine Fund now can focus their energies into saving other birds of prey species and they have been involved with conservation efforts for ~100 raptor species (and also some non-raptors, like the critically endangered Madagascar pochard Aythya innotata).  They run the World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise, Idaho, which is a breeding center and a zoo with only birds of prey (much like the International Crane Foundation has a breeding center and zoo specializing just on crane species) and have incredible successes there breeding large numbers of species like California condors Gymnogyps californianus, Aplomado falcons Falco femoralis, bald eagles Haliaeetus leucocephalus, Mauritius kestrels Falco punctatus, and many more.

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Thursday, July 7, 2011

BirdLife International: They speak for the birds

BirdLife International logo
The good people at BirdLife International (formerly the International Council for Bird Preservation) have been working to protect endangered birds since 1922.  They are an alliance(the largest conservation alliance globally) of many different conservation and scientific organizations (like the National Audubon Society and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) which are banded together to unite resources, determining important directions in research and conservation to pursue and giving the bird conservation community a stronger lobbying position.

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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Wildlife Conservation Society: 5 zoos and 116 years as one of the largest conservation organizations on Earth

Wildlife Conservation Society logo
The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) was founded in 1895 as the New York Zoological Society with a mandate to promote wildlife conservation, promote zoological study, and create a zoo (the Bronx Zoo).  It immediately took heartily to all three goals.  Apart from running the Bronx Zoo, Prospect Park Zoo, Central Park Zoo, Queens Zoo, and New York Aquarium, WCS also manages more than 200 million acres of protected wild lands globally, is engaged with over 500 field projects from 60 countries, and has over 200 scientists on their payroll.

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Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds: Over a century of saving birds

Royal Society for the Protection of Birds logo
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is extremely well known throughout the United Kingdom, but I am including it because it is much less well known outside the UK even though it has been expanding more and more into international conservation projects, and also because it is an excellent example of how a local conservation organization can be run extremely successfully.  The RSPB has focused its efforts into three main arenas: protecting habitat through their series of 200+ reserves scattered around the United Kingdom, initiating programs to build up endangered species numbers, and using their political clout (from their more than one million members) to affect positive change for wildlife and native habitats.
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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Proyecto Titi: Saving small monkeys with crazy hair for over 25 years

Proyecto Titi logo
Proyecto Titi is an organization designed to save Colombia's critically endangered cotton-top tamarins Saguinus oedipus from extinction and preserve habitats and biodiversity from the forests where they live.  Cotton-top tamarins are a small primate species found only in Colombian tropical forests.  Although there are no accurate estimates of their original population size, tamarins must have numbered at least in the tens of thousands since 20,000-30,000 were exported in the late 1960's for medical testing and the pet trade, and since at least 75% (and estimates are up to 98%) of their original forest habitat has been cleared.  The latest population estimate is there could be up to 7,400 animals left, presumed to be 20% or less of the original population.  Unfortunately, habitat destruction continues unabated, and two hydroelectric dams being built will flood much of the remaining forest.

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Saturday, June 25, 2011

Frankfurt Zoological Society: It's not ALL happening at the zoo

Frankfurt Zoological Society logo FZS

The Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS) was originally founded to support Zoo Frankfurt over 150 years ago but has grown far past that purpose alone.  Progressive zoos today focus their energies not merely on entertainment, but towards utilizing their unique positions to improve the natural world's state through research, education, species conservation through both captive breeding and habitat protection, animal welfare, and sustainability.  FZS is among the leaders in the zoo field globally for their outstanding work in these areas.

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Thursday, June 23, 2011

International Crane Foundation: Tall, lanky & in need of help

I am incredibly lucky and have had the opportunity to work with 12 of the 15 crane species at zoos and have seen 1 of the remaining 3 species in the wild on several occasions.  Given my tremendous love for cranes, I am very familiar with the amazing work being done with cranes at the International Crane Foundation (ICF) because they are doing most of the conservation work with cranes globally.  ICF was formed in the early 1970's by George Archibald and Ron Sauey to promote crane conservation through research, education, habitat protection, captive breeding, and release of captive bred birds into protected wild areas.  ICF have done an outstanding job in all those areas.

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Sunday, June 19, 2011

WildlifeDirect: Blogging for conservation

Since Paula Kuhumbu is being presented with a National Geographic/Buffett Award for Conservation Leadership for her work as the Executive Director of WildlifeDirect and the Kenya Land Conservation Trust (and also being named a 2011 National Geographic Emerging Explorer), this seems like an excellent time to write a post on WildlifeDirect and the excellent work they are doing.

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Friday, June 17, 2011

Helping the rarest cat in the Americas: Alianza Gato Andino

Andean Cat Alliance logo
I am going to continue with my cat conservation trend by covering Alianza Gato Andino (AGA, The Andean Cat Alliance), the organization working to save the Andean cat Leopardus (Oreailurus) jacobita, the most endangered cat from North & South America.  Populations of this small cat of high mountain (above timberline) regions from the Andes from Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, and Peru are very small and scattered, and densities of these secretive cats are extremely low.  This makes these cats extremely difficult to study, since they have only been spotted a few times by field biologists and none are in captivity.  Many Andean cat researchers have spent many, many years studying this species without having ever seen one alive, or if so only catching a rare and fleeting glimpse.  That is a degree of commitment beyond most people- I am not used to meeting researchers who have not seen their study species, yet remain incredibly dedicated to their work.  It is a rare person that works so diligently saving a species they have never seen and may not ever see just because they know it is important.  And so these researchers continue with their work because they think it is more important saving the cat than seeing more than traces that cats have left behind, laboring on with hopes of saving this cat (and one day maybe catching a glimpse of one.)
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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

King of the Mountain: The Snow Leopard Conservancy

Snow Leopard Conservancy logo
Some conservation organizations like the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust start because someone sees the devastation which is happening to much of the flora/fauna around the world and is determined to slow or stop it.  Other organizations were founded by people who are extremely familiar with one species (often by researchers who are studying the species) and discover they cannot stand by impassively while a species they are so familiar with plummets towards extinction.  Snow Leopard Conservancy is one of the latter conservation organizations.  Rodney Jackson is top of the field in snow leopard Panthera (Uncia) uncia research so he knows better than anyone how precarious their continued existence is and how many threats are facing them.  Fortunately he also has a good understanding regarding what will be required to alleviate those threats and has the drive needed to tackle them.  He founded Snow Leopard Conservancy and has devoted himself to alleviating threats against snow leopards.
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Sunday, June 12, 2011

Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust: It all started with a zoo

Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust logo
The Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust was founded in 1963 (although technically the zoo opened on the isle of Jersey in 1959) by conservationist, nature documentarian, and author Gerald Durrell to create captive breeding groups of endangered animals and plants for return back into the wild later.  Since that time the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust (formerly the Jersey Wildlife Preservation Trust) has been intensively involved with the protection of endangered species, much through captive breeding at the zoo (the Durrell Wildlife Park, formerly the Jersey Zoo).  They chose the dodo Raphus cucullatus for their symbol to point out the importance of conservation work and to demonstrate what will happen to other species if conservation enterprises are not taken or are not strong enough.

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Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Xerces Society: Helping those without backbones for 40 years

Xerces Society logo

The Xerces Society was formed 40 years ago to protect insects and other invertebrates and their habitats from extinction.  They were named after the Xerces blue Glaucopsyche xerces, the first North American butterfly species we made go extinct.  Exact reasons behind the Xerces blue's extinction are not known because its ecology was poorly understood before it went extinct, but current best guess is it had a symbiotic relationship with a local ant species and when most local ant species were displaced by invasive Argentine ants the butterfly lost a vital piece required to complete its life cycle.  Which just goes to show you that little unloved species like ants should be saved just like glamorous mega-vertebrates like giant pandas, because all those little invertebrate species form the food webs' bases and every time a species on bottom is pulled out it will likely have a disproportionately large response on species higher up a trophic pyramid.  While most conservation organizations are raising money, saving adorable fluffy animals, the Xerces Society is fighting the good fight for the little guy, quite literally, saving animals which you would be hard pressed to call cute but are still equally deserving.

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Monday, June 6, 2011

Out of sight ≠ out of mind for the good folks at Bat Conservation International

Bat Conservation International logo

Although Bat Conservation International (BCI) is a conservation organization which has been around for decades doing crucial work to save bat species globally, this is an excellent time to support their work.  In 2006 white-nose syndrome was first discovered from North American bats .  Scientists were not sure what it was at the time and it has unfortunately swept westward over the continent since then, killing nearly every bat it comes into contact with on its way towards the Pacific.  This is one of the worst catastrophes to ever hit North American wildlife.  Consequently, BCI's work the past several years has taken on a new sense of urgency.  White-nose syndrome is currently found in nine of North America's forty seven bat species already.  BCI has been funding research into causes and cures of white-nose syndrome, but they need your financial help.

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Sunday, June 5, 2011

Highway to Hell: Serengeti Watch

Spotted Hyaenas with baby in the Serengeti © Thomas Knight
While Serengeti Watch is not a long established conservation organization and does not have many huge successes to claim, I am including it because although it is extremely new, its goal is crucial and time sensitive: stop construction of a government-mandated highway straight through the most sensitive part of the Serengeti.  Building the highway is currently slated to begin next year, even though researchers from the Frankfurt Zoological Society working in the Serengeti, other scientists globally, travel agents (and the tourism industry in toto), and concerned individuals have been petitioning the government to rethink their decision and instead reroute the highway outside the Serengeti, where it would also increase economic growth for those villages in its path and would garner increased traffic.  If the highway is built like it is currently proposed, estimates are that at least 3/4 of the migratory wildebeest population will be decimated and may stop being migratory, there will be incalculable wildlife loss due to roadkills, rhino poaching will increase substantially with increased ease of access to more sensitive reserve areas, and cost over-runs will eclipse the projected highway cost; wildlife barriers on the highway are needed which have not been included in the current budget.
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Friday, June 3, 2011

Why a duck? The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT)

Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust logo

Who doesn't love a duck?  Their rounded, rubbery bills, their endearing waddling gait, their happy tail-waggling, their wonderful calls- it's hard to hate ducks.  They have always been personal favorites of mine, and they are also personal favorites of the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT). WWT is a British nonprofit which was founded in 1946 by the naturalist Sir Peter Scott (who was one of the greatest conservation biologists of our time, also helping found the World Wildlife Fund and create the IUCN Red Data Books) and is committed to protecting, expanding, and creating wetlands and researching and protecting wetland species.  They have nine wetland visitor centers scatted around the country which are all spectacular (Martin Mere is the only one I have visited so far during my UK trips, but I was completely blown away by it and have heard the other centers are equally beautiful and amazing and can't wait to visit them), but WWT does not work only in Great Britain.  They work globally, attempting to save many endangered species.  Some of the many, many species they have/are working with are:

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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Why would you bowl for a rhinoceros? AAZK's Bowling For Rhinos

Bowling for Rhinos BFR logo

Bowling for Rhinos (BFR) is an annual event organized by the American Association of Zoo Keepers (AAZK) and run locally by ~55 groups of zoo keeper volunteers at zoos around North America.  Each AAZK local chapter that participates sets up a bowl-a-thon (or similar event) in their community which usually also involves an auction with donated items and all proceeds (~ a quarter million dollars each year) are split between 3 different rhinoceros refuges: the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy (with white rhinos Ceratotherium simum and black rhinos Diceros bicornis) from Kenya, Ujung Kulon National Park (with Javan rhinos Rhinoceros sondaicus) from Indonesia, & the Bukit Barisan Selatan & Way Kambas National Parks (with Sumatran rhinos Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) from Indonesia.  Since the entire enterprise is run by volunteers at every level and all the administrative costs are covered by local chapters from other funds, all proceeds go directly to the parks for protecting rhinos.

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Monday, May 30, 2011

And the winner for Coolest Nose On An Antelope... Saiga Conservation Alliance

Saiga Conservation Alliance logo

I will start off my conservation blogging efforts with a group working at saving a species which was once extremely common throughout grassland & semi-arid deserts from central Asia.  The saiga Saiga tatarica is an antelope species which looks like something out of a Star Wars film, and is critically endangered from poaching, collecting both horns for the Chinese medicine trade and meat.  The population has plummeted to only 4% of what it was during the 1970's.   Since saiga with horns are targeted, most animals killed are males.  Consequently, the saiga's situation is even worse than just having 4% of the population remaining; since the sex ratio is so strongly skewed towards females, there are not enough males around to breed with all remaining females, so the population's effective size is even smaller in terms of breeding potential for recovery.  Using the Thomas Knight Comparative Population Decimation Scale of Doom© we can see that losing 96% of the population is equivalent of having all humans die from the continents of North & South America, Africa, Australia, Antarctica, and Europe, along with all people throughout Asia excepting those from Indonesia & Malaysia.  And that's only the population decline since the 1970's- long before then it had already been eradicated from large segments of its original range.  

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What I hope to accomplish, and the Thomas Knight Comparative Population Decimation Scale of Doom©

“Why start a blog about conservation?” you may well ask.  “Hasn't enough been said about conservation?  Aren't you just sullying the already murky depths of the internet with something which has already been done?”  Perhaps, we will see.  This may be useful, or it may not be, but I feel there is a need for it and I will see if I can help fill that need.  If not, then at least I have tried, and you can't fault a person for trying (except I suppose poor little Rebecca Black shows that isn't necessarily true) and in a worst case scenario at least I won't actually harm any conservation efforts.  If only one person motivated by this blog does something, anything at all, then I feel like my labors here will not have been for nothing.

One way in which I hope to add something is by providing a desperately needed scale.  Species population collapses around the globe are happening on scales which we simply can't make any sense of because they are far too large for our little primate brains (which originally evolved to help us figure out how to escape from predators & find food & mates, not process numbers in the hundreds, never mind millions or billions) to grasp.  Consequently, when looking at population declines with animal species, I will demonstrate what would happen with the human population if we lost a similar percentage of our species.

As an example for illustration purposes, when we hear the white-rumped vulture Gyps bengalensis, formerly possibly the most abundant large bird of prey globally, has experienced a 99.9% population decrease over the past 10-15 years, it sounds horrible, but it is impossible to visualize what that really means.  When using the Thomas Knight Comparative Population Decimation Scale of Doom© we can grasp the scale a bit better, because we are looking at how much of the entire human population would be wiped out to create a similar disaster within our own species.  In this particular case, everyone from North America would be dead.  So would the entire population of South America, Australia, Africa, and Europe.  The scientists on Antarctica- also all gone.  Which leaves Asia.  Wipe them all out also, all except the handful of people living in the teeny tiny (keep zooming in on the map until you see it- then look at the scale) country of Hong Kong.  And that is what would be left of our entire species on this planet: people who currently live in Hong Kong.  Everyone else would be dead.  Still hard to grasp, but it helps make what has happened with white-rumped vultures over the past 10-15 years a little more real.  The astoundingly, mind-blowingly horrific genocides and wars which humans have committed against other humans have been terrible, but they pale by comparison with what we have done to other species which share the planet with us.  But this blog's purpose is not to condemn people destroying those species, but celebrate people who are stopping declines and help them with their work.  So join with me and help give these people & organizations some love/publicity/money/support!
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