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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 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.

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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Chester Zoo: Another zoo leading the way in conservation

Chester Zoo logo
 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.

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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
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's Canis 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.

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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, 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 pochard Aythya 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 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 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.

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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).  WCS immediately heartily embraced all three goals.  WCS runs the Bronx Zoo, Prospect Park Zoo, Central Park Zoo, Queens Zoo, and New York Aquarium, also manages protected wild lands (more than 200 million acres globally), is engaged among over 500 field projects through 60 countries, and employs over 200 scientists.

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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 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.
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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 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.

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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 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.

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Thursday, June 23, 2011

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

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.

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Sunday, June 19, 2011

WildlifeDirect: Blogging for conservation


Since Paula Kuhumbu is being presented a National Geographic/Buffett Conservation Leadership Award due to her work as WildlifeDirect and the Kenya Land Conservation Trust's Executive Director (and also being named a 2011 National Geographic Emerging Explorer), this seems like an excellent time to write a post concerning WildlifeDirect and the excellent work it does.

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Friday, June 17, 2011

Helping the rarest cat in the Americas: Alianza Gato Andino

Andean Cat Alliance logo
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).
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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 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.
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Sunday, June 12, 2011

Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust: It all started with a zoo

Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust logo
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.

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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.  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.

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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

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.

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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 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).
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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.  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:

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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 through the American Association of Zoo Keepers (AAZK) and run locally through ~55 groups of zoo keeper volunteers around North America.  Each AAZK local chapter which participates sets up a bowl-a-thon (or similar event) which usually also involves an auction.  Donated auction items and ticket/donation proceeds (~ a quarter million dollars each year) are split between 3 different rhinoceros refuges: the Kenyan Lewa Wildlife Conservancy (who have white rhinos Ceratotherium simum and black rhinos Diceros bicornis), Indonesian Ujung Kulon National Park (who have Javan rhinos Rhinoceros sondaicus), & the Indonesian Bukit Barisan Selatan & Way Kambas National Parks (who have Sumatran rhinos Dicerorhinus sumatrensis).  The entire enterprise is run by volunteers and all administrative costs are covered through local chapters from other funds, so all proceeds go directly towards funding parks.

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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 spotlighting a group which protects a species which was once extremely common throughout grassland & semi-arid deserts within central Asia.  The saiga Saiga tatarica is an antelope species which looks like something inside a Star Wars film, and has become critically endangered through poachers, who harvest horns for the Chinese medicine trade and meat.  The population has plummeted- it is only 4% of its size during the 1970's.   Since saiga sporting horns are targeted, most animals killed are males.  Consequently, the saiga's situation is much worse than just having 4% remaining; since the sex ratio is so strongly skewed towards females, there are not enough males around to breed all remaining females, so the population's effective size is far smaller regarding breeding potential.  This is a serious issue concerning recovery potential.  Use the Thomas Knight Comparative Population Decimation Scale of Doom© and we see that losing 96% of the population = having all humans die through the North & South American, African, Australian, Antarctic, and European continents, and all people throughout Asia except those inhabiting Indonesia & Malaysia.  Seriously- 96%.  I do not have words...  And that's only the population decline since the 1970's- long before then the saiga's range contraction was already substantial.  It is not possible to get much worse and still be tenable for the saiga.

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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 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.

As an example, 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 we use the Thomas Knight Comparative Population Decimation Scale of Doom© we can grasp the scale a bit better, because we are looking at how many humans would be exterminated while create a similar disaster within our own species.  Regarding this particular case, all North Americans would be dead.  So would South America, Australia, Africa, and Europe's entire populations.  The Antarctic scientists - also all gone.  Which leaves Asia.  Exterminate them all also, all except the few people who live within teeny tiny (zoom until you see it- then look at the scale) Hong Kong.  This is what would be left: people who currently live within Hong Kong.  Everyone else would be dead.  Visualization is still hard, but it helps make what has happened regarding 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 horrible, but those pale through comparison when you see how we treat other species which share our planet.  But this blog's purpose is not to condemn people who destroy those species, but celebrate people who stop the declines and help them do their work.  So join with me and help give these people & organizations some love/publicity/money/support!
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