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.

William Hornaday future director of the Bronx Zoo and an American Bison calf in 1886
William Hornaday with a bison calf
The New York Zoological Society hit the ground running.  A group of very prominent people formed it, including such famous personages as Theodore Roosevelt.  Shortly after its founding the first director, William Hornaday, created the American Bison Society, reversing the American bison's Bison bison precipitous population crash through captive breeding bison at the Bronx Zoo following which they released their offspring in protected Western reserves.  Obviously, their plan was a success, and we can largely thank bison preservation to this early vital WCS work.
Several factors have gone into WCS's massive successes.  The incredible talent WCS attracts through their mission is unquestionably the main factor.  WCS has too many great conservationists, field biologists, and other scientists under their employ to name them all, but I will name one example: George Schaller.  George Schaller is among our generation's greatest conservation biologist, a field biologist who conducted the first detailed studies concerning the most secretive animals globally.  He gave us our first information regarding the lives of African lions, snow leopards, mountain gorillas, Bengal tigers, and giant pandas.  He has done more than just show us these animals' secret lives however.  Through his beautiful writing style (I can highly recommend all his books; he is an excellent author) he forges an empathy between reader and animal, which has sparked a love which many people have for these animals inhabiting far-away lands.  He has also been a tireless wildlife conservation advocate, and countless reserves formed globally have been partially his handiwork.  Many other great scientists at WCS follow in his footsteps.
Since WCS has saved wildlife well over a century now and has over 500 current field projects (and that doesn't cover the many captive breeding conservation projects at their zoos, like the pink pigeon Columba/Nesoenas mayeri project which WCS participates in) through over 60 countries, it is impossible to summarize the kind of work WCS undertakes: they undertake everything- but only if it involves wildlife protection.  Look at some animals and places where WCS works.  Their reach is truly breathtaking.  WCS has preserved many species and habitats which otherwise would have been lost long ago.  However, although WCS is large, they still need help- the more WCS raises, the more habitat they can save.  Do donate WCS your time or money and know your assistance will help save more animals and their habitat.

Interested in reading some of George Schaller's books?  Here are some of his field biology classics:

The Serengeti Lion: A Study of Predator-Prey Relations by George Schaller
The Serengeti Lion: A Study of Predator-Prey Relations is, obviously, about his research regarding African lions.

The Year of the Gorilla by George Schaller
The Year of the Gorilla is, again obviously, about his time studying mountain gorillas.

Stones of Silence: Journeys in the Himalaya by George Schaller
Stones of Silence: Journeys in the Himalaya is about his studies on wildlife (including snow leopards) in the Himalayas.

The Last Panda by George Schaller
The Last Panda is, finally very obviously, concerning giant pandas.

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