The International Rhino Foundation (IRF) was founded over 20 years ago to combat black rhinoceros Diceros bicornis poaching. The foundation's black rhino work has been so successful (poaching was nearly eliminated) that the foundation soon expanded their activities towards all five species of rhinoceros. The foundation is and always has been run almost entirely by volunteer labor, composing field biologists, zoo employees, and conservation biologists, but also a handful of paid employees who manage any daily requirements. The foundation's partners include the American Association of Zoo Keepers, many zoos, and a mix of business interests, foundations and conservation organizations, which all protect all rhino species together.
England's Chester Zoo is another excellent zoo which makes a huge conservation difference globally. Originally opened in 1931, since its earliest days Chester's zoo technology and thinking has been cutting edge. Chester also has one of the most comprehensive and largest zoo conservation commitments globally. Chester trains and assists people who save endangered species in situ (within their native lands), captive breeds animals ex situ (not within their native lands; i.e. at Chester Zoo if non-native species), assists captive bred endangered species reintroductions, sponsors research regarding endangered species biology, and minimizes threats through educational program formulation.
Researcher Claudio Sillero (who also helped found the Andean Cat Alliance) founded the Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Programme (EWCP) during 1995 to reverse the Ethiopian wolf'sCanis simensis headlong plummet towards extinction. The Ethiopian wolf is the most endangered canid (dog)- less than 450 are alive today. The Ethiopian wolf's greatest threats are human encroachment and all that brings: habitat loss, road building, domestic dogs' diseases, and human hunting which eliminates perceived threats to livestock.
The Peregrine Fund was founded in 1970 by Tom Cade, an ornithology professor at Cornell University, to save the peregrine falcon Falco peregrinus, which had nearly disappeared through the western United States, and reintroduce it back into the eastern United States. A captive breeding program including offspring reintroduction was initiated and was wildly successful. Consequently, the Peregrine Fund now can focus their energies towards saving other birds of prey species and has helped save ~100 raptor species (and also some non-raptors, like the critically endangered Madagascar pochardAythya innotata). The Peregrine Fund run the World Center for Birds of Prey (WCBP), a breeding center and a zoo which only has birds of prey (much like the International Crane Foundation has a breeding center and zoo which specializes just on crane species) and breed large numbers of species like California condorsGymnogyps californianus, Aplomado falcons Falco femoralis, bald eagles Haliaeetus leucocephalus, Mauritius kestrelsFalco punctatus, and many more.
The good people at BirdLife International (formerly the International Council for Bird Preservation) have been protecting endangered birds since 1922. BirdLife is 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) banded together so BirdLife can unite resources, determine important directions within research and conservation to pursue and give the bird conservation community a stronger lobbying position.
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is extremely well known throughout the UK, but I include it because it is much less well known outside the UK although it is expanding more and more into international conservation projects, and also because it is an excellent example showing how a local conservation organization can be run extremely successfully. The RSPB has focused its efforts into three main arenas: protect habitat through their 200+ reserves scattered around the UK, initiate programs which build up endangered species numbers, and use their political clout (through their more than one million members) to effect positive change regarding wildlife and native habitats.
Proyecto Titi is an organization designed to save Colombia's critically endangered cotton-top tamarinsSaguinus oedipus and preserve habitats and biodiversity within the forests where tamarins live. Cotton-top tamarins are a small primate species found only within Colombian tropical forests. Although there are no accurate estimates concerning their original population size, tamarins must have numbered at least within the tens of thousands since 20,000-30,000 were exported during the late 1960's for medical tests and the pet trade, and since at least 75% (but possibly 98%) of their original forest habitat has been cleared. The latest population estimate is there could be 7,400 animals left, presumably 20% or less than the original population. Unfortunately, habitat destruction continues unabated, and two hydroelectric dams being built will flood much remaining forest.
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 into entertainment, but also utilize their unique positions to improve the nature's state through research, education, species conservation through both captive breeding and habitat protection, animal welfare, and sustainability. FZS is among the global leaders within the zoo field through their outstanding work.
I am incredibly lucky and have worked among 12 of the 15 crane species globally within zoos and have seen another species flying free occasionally. Given my tremendous love of cranes, I know the amazing crane work done at the International Crane Foundation (ICF) because they do most global crane conservation work. George Archibald and Ron Sauey formed ICF during the early 1970's to promote crane conservation through research, education, habitat protection, captive breeding, and releasing captive bred birds into protected wild areas. ICF have done an outstanding job through all those areas.
Now I will cover Alianza Gato Andino (AGA, the Andean Cat Alliance), which works to save the Andean cat Leopardus (Oreailurus) jacobita, the most endangered North & South America cat. Populations of this small high Andes cat (found above timberline) are very small and scattered, and densities are extremely low. The cats are also extremely secretive. This makes these cats extremely difficult to study, since field biologists have only spotted wild cats a few times and none are captive. Many Andean cat researchers study the cat many years without ever seing one alive, or if so only a rare and fleeting glimpse. That is a commitment beyond most people- I am not used to meeting researchers who have not seen their study species, yet remain so 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 the researchers know it is important. And so these researchers continue their work because it is more important the cat is safe than the cat is visible- the researchers labor on to save this cat (and one day maybe also catch a quick glimpse).
Some conservation organizations like the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust start because someone sees how human devastation affects flora/fauna globally. Other organizations were founded by people who are extremely familiar with one species (often researchers who study the species) who discover they cannot watch impassively while their study species plummets towards extinction. Snow Leopard Conservancy (SLC) is the latter type. Rodney Jackson is a head snow leopard Panthera (Uncia) uncia researcher so he knows better than anyone how precarious their continued existence is and how many threats face them. Fortunately, Rodney understands those threats and has unlimited drive. Rodney founded SLC and has devoted himself to alleviating threats against snow leopards.
Conservationist, nature documentarian, and author Gerald Durrell founded the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust during 1963 (although 1959 saw the zoo open) to create captive breeding groups of endangered animals and plants. Since that time the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust (formerly the Jersey Wildlife Preservation Trust) has driven much endangered species protection, often through captive breeding at the zoo (the Durrell Wildlife Park, formerly the Jersey Zoo). The trust made the dodo Raphus cucullatus their symbol, highlighting their conservation work's importance and demonstrating what happens among endangered species when conservation enterprises are not taken or are not strong enough.
The Xerces Society was formed 40 years ago to protect insects and other invertebrates and their habitats. The Xerces Society was 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 the butterfly and a local ant species had a symbiotic relationship and when invasive Argentine ants displaced most local ant species the butterfly lost a vital life cycle requirement. Which just shows 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 base species is removed it will likely have a disproportionately large response higher up the trophic pyramid. While most conservation organizations save adorable fluffy animals, the Xerces Society fights 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.
Bat Conservation International (BCI) is a conservation organization which has been around since 1982 conducting crucial work saving bat species globally. In 2006 white-nose syndrome was first discovered among 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 contact while progressing towards the Pacific. This is a devastating catastrophe; nearly the worstNorth American wildlife disaster ever. Consequently, BCI's work the past several years has brought a new urgency. White-nose syndrome is currently found within nine of North America's forty-seven bat species already. BCI funds research into white-nose syndrome's causes and cures, but they need your financial help.
While Serengeti Watch is not a long established conservation organization and does not have many huge successes under their belt, I include it because although it is extremely new, its goal is crucial and time sensitive: stop a government-mandated highway's construction straight through the Serengeti, through its most sensitive part. The plan is to build the highway next year, although Frankfurt Zoological Society researchers working in the Serengeti, other scientists globally, travel agents (and the tourism industry in toto), and concerned individuals have been requesting the government rethink their decision and instead reroute the highway outside the Serengeti. I do not have any idea why the government doesn't reroute the highway, since rerouting it would increase economic growth within those villages along its path. If the highway is built the way it is currently being proposed, it is not going to make anyone happy. Estimates are at least 3/4 of wildebeest which migrate will be decimated and may stop being migratory. There will be incalculable roadkill wildlife losses and rhino poaching will increase substantially with increased access inside more sensitive reserve areas. Cost over-runs will also eclipse the projected highway cost (wildlife barriers are needed which the current budget has not included).
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. Waterfowl have always been my personal favorites, and are also the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust's (WWT) personal favorites. WWT is a British nonprofit which Sir Peter Scott (among the greatest conservation biologists, who also helped found the World Wildlife Fund and create the IUCN Red Data Books)founded in 1946 and protects, expands, and creates wetlands and researches and protects wetland species. WWT has 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 it blew me away and I have heard the other centers are equally beautiful and amazing), but WWT does not work only throughout Great Britain. WWT also saves many endangered species globally. Following are a few examples:
“Why start a blog about conservation?” you may well ask. “Hasn't enough been said concerning conservation? Aren't you just sullying the already murky internet's depths 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 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 through this blog does something, anything at all, then I feel like my labors here will not have been for naught.
One way which I hope to add something is through providing a desperately needed scale. Species population collapses around the globe are happening on scales which we simply can't visualize because our little primate brains (which originally evolved so we could determine how to escape predators & find food & mates, not
process numbers in the hundreds, never mind millions or billions) cannot grasp numbers so large. Consequently, when I look at population declines among animal species, I will demonstrate what would happen among the human population if we lost a similar percentage of our species.
My name is Thomas Knight. I am a zoo keeper and this is a site drawing attention to people/organizations which do great conservation work. I hope it will provide support for people who do amazing work, will inspire others to follow their examples, & create hope in what can sometimes seem an overwhelmingly bleak global environmental situation. Individuals can make a difference. It is also a place for positive exchanges. I like the trolls less than I like the Billy Goats Gruff, and comments by trolls will be butted into the river of internet obscurity. Don't like the thought of animals in zoos, even if it saves a species? Fair enough, but don't post angry comments here. Those people wanting arguments with others to convince them your position is the correct one, try here. This blog is all about love and happiness, not flame wars and hate. You know when you curl up in bed on a cold winter's night just after the dryer releases a warm blanket over you? That is this blog.
Speaking of love and happiness, you may have noticed that scattered throughout the blog there are art works picturing some animals which are being protected through the featured organization, made by artists both young and old. If you have art from a budding young (or older) artist showing an animal being protected through a featured conservation organization, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will put it up amongst the appropriate organization's post.
A little about where Thomas Knight is coming from
I have been a zoo keeper since I was a teen and am a strong believer in the power of one person to save the planet. Many people who love animals love zoos, many hate zoos. This blog is not a referendum covering everyone's personal views concerning zoos since the views are many and complex and nobody is completely right or completely wrong. I will not argue over zoo ethics philosophies. This blog's purpose is to provide myriad conservation organizations which attack similar problems from various angles some positive support, but here is my view so you know where I stand: Like most things, zoos can be whatever we want. Ideally, zoos should be another tool in our arsenal, preventing habitat destruction & species extinctions, likethis. Bad zoos certainly exist, and we should focus our energies into improving or (in worst cases where improvement to globally accepted animal care standards is clearly not possible/wanted by the owners) closing them. However, there are many, many good zoos. Those zoos should be treated like the exceptional resources they are. Without zoos, many people would never build any connection with nature at all. I can't tell you how many kids (and adults) I have met who didn't know where eggsoriginate, orbacon. Never mind knowing anything else concerning animals. One thing that makes me sad is so many inner city kids never see any animal species other thanrats,cockroaches, & pigeons. Zoos provide people an opportunity to encounter animals and form a sense of awe, a spiritual connection if you will, with other species whichon this planet. There is something different when you see an animal before you, you watch it yourself, their magical uniqueness, which can't be replicated through television or a book, but must be experienced. A species' conservation will interest nobody without first forming a connection with that species or another, which is perhaps the most important zoo role. Thebest zooshave played an important role whenaverting species extinctions. All good zoos play a larger conservation role these days, which is how it should be.
The main argument I hear against zoos is it is cruel keeping animal species captive, without their freedom. But nature also has fences; territorial boundaries are just as real as fences. These days the whole planet is also becomesmall fenced areas where animals are kept inside, versus fences around our houses to keep animals outside. This is tremendously sad, but a fact nonetheless. However, ifzoos' artificial territories and natural wild territories are similar, is there a difference? If the animal says no, so do I. Just something worth pondering.
Zoos are not the only way we can foster a love for naturethough. Another favorite way is through books- I have a massive (over 1500 books & journals) natural history book library. I will choose some excellent books concerning different blogs and post links regarding them. The books are pretty specialist (and often quite pricey), but are books which are worth the cost. Learning makes me happy though, so let me know if you think there's a better book available. Got to keep up with the Joneses.