Biologist, Conservationist, & Portlander. My passion lives in Africa.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

San Diego Zoo Doing Their Part.

5:02 PM Posted by Tara Easter No comments
You would think with all my Africa talk I had always wanted to frolic with the lions and elephants on the plains of the Serengeti, but truthfully, growing up I wanted to be a marine biologist. I'd stay in freezing cold water for hours on end with my goggles and goofy sun-protecting visor discovering everything I could about aquatic life. That's me in the dorky green hat on my very first dolphin watching expedition. But enough about me, I'm writing to admire someone else's passion for our ocean dwellers. 

Zoos and Aquariums around the world face harsh criticisms with their conservation involvement. I even took an entire class on it in college called: Are Zoos and Aquariums Modern Arks? I have to admit, I too sometimes join in on the skepticism, but from what I've found, what visitors see at the zoo itself is not at all the whole package. At the larger zoos especially, the Smithsonian, the San Diego Zoo, Busch Gardens, the Georgia Aquarium, there are whole teams of people working behind the scenes to conduct research on endangered species all over. The mass crowds they pull in to see these magnificent animals up close end up funding reintroduction and community outreach programs just like this one:

I especially appreciated the community based management tactics they are going for with this program. 
Our collaborative group has prioritized the most efficient methods of addressing the human dimension of conservation. We will cultivate a sense of local pride in the vaquita and ultimately transfer ownership of vaquita conservation to the three fishing communities that are our main focus.
To do this, we are engaging the communities in education, outreach, and alternative livelihood opportunities to garner an interest in alternative fishing gear."
I believe a sense of pride and responsibility for a rare species within communities inspires them to examine their own lifestyle choices. Like the SDZG said, it's the most efficient method of conservation. It's worked many times in other places, like in Rwanda with their mountain gorillas. Every year, there is a massive ceremony to name the newborn gorillas, and it gives the locals a personal connection with the animals. They did the same thing with lions in a village in Kenya when poisoning was on the rise, and in SE Asia with red pandas. 

I have high hopes for vaquitas' continued existence. I think these delightful porpoises will be swimming into the imaginations of other little explorers for years to come. 


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