Wildlife Conservation and Education

by Jun 28, 2020

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The human race may not fit the technical definition of an invasive species, but it certainly ticks many of the boxes. Many of the species that are considered invasive have also achieved this status through our activities. We have spread to every continent and consume more than any other species in resources, far exceeding what we require to live. The resulting damage caused to the delicate balance in our ecosystem is our responsibility to correct. Wildlife conservation and education are essential to raise awareness and protect many species under threat.

Wildlife Conservation and Education

Conservation in Your Own Backyard

In modern society, urban development is expanding and absorbing the habitat of indigenous species at an alarming rate. The hardiest and most adaptable species seem to cope with the invasion of humanity, some even thrive, but most are in steady decline. If common a species is struggling, a rare species has no hope of survival.

The expansion of suburban and industrial areas happens in such a way that most people are blissfully unaware of the devastation caused by land development. The land is cordoned off while the demolition and construction occur. Once the work is complete, the area is populated, and the remnants of the original residents become almost invisible to the invading population. How many people pass by waterbirds clinging to the remains of their wetlands habitat without even being noticed?

Conservation of endangered species is undoubtedly desirable but addressing the loss of habitat and other environmental pressures facing all species, including common species, is also essential. It takes very little for a common species to become rare, and it is often too late to halt the decline of the species once that has happened.

Wildlife Conservation and Education - Purple Swamphen, a common bird around suburban wetlands.

Purple swamphen, a common resident in suburban wetlands.

ANIMALINFO PUBLICATIONS

DIANA ANDERSEN
Diana Andersen is a professional photographer with a background in design. Her award-winning work is held by major Australian galleries and collections. After years spent as a practising designer and a lecturer in design, Diana turned her attention to her other passion, animals, and became a zookeeper working in conservation. A published author, Diana initially used photography to illustrate her books, but it has since become a passion. Diana founded Animalinfo Publications in 2007.

Suburban Wildlife Conservation and Education

One of the best things you can do to help wildlife recover from the loss of habitat is to replant your garden with native plants. Doing so replaces the lost vegetation and will attract birds back into your garden. Water is also essential, but you need to be sure that you keep any water provided clean to prevent doing more damage than good. Feeding local wildlife can be problematic as well, often leading to dependence, dietary deficiencies and illness, so replacing natural habitat is preferable to feeding.

Be aware of what your pets are doing, both in your backyard and when out walking. Injury caused to wildlife by roaming domestic cats and pet dogs is common. You only need to watch the reaction of birds to passing dogs in local pond and park areas to know that they are used to being terrorised by them. Birds like bee-eaters, plovers and many other species that nest on the ground are often disturbed by pets as well. In some areas, the disturbance to breeding grounds leads to the total loss of a species in that area.

Be aware of where your waste products are going as pollution caused by chemical run-off can have a devastating effect on local wildlife. Stay on top of proposed developments that may be harmful to local wildlife and be prepared to stand up and have a say in what gets approval in your area. Many projects go ahead through lack of opposition and apathy on the part of surrounding residents.

Rainbow Bee-eater, a bird species that nest in burrows on the ground, easily impacted by pet dogs and cats.

Rainbow Bee-eater, a bird species that nest in burrows on the ground, easily impacted by pet dogs and cats.

Providing Emergency Care For Wildlife

One of the most frustrating things about caring for injured wildlife is people’s reluctance to hand over animals to expert care. Very often, by the time they do so, infection or further injury has occurred, often resulting in the death of the animal. I have several birds in permanent care that can’t be released because their injuries were not attended to in time to prevent permanent damage. Minor injuries can become permanent if they do not receive the correct treatment. The aim of all wildlife care should be to return the animal to where it came from, not to provide you with a new exotic pet.

While stopping to attend to injured wildlife is admirable, it is also essential that the care provided is appropriate to the animal. Injured, orphaned, and ill animals need to be kept warm and quiet, usually in a darkened area away from prying eyes. Caressing and stroking might make a frightened pet feel better, but it just adds to the stress level of wild animals. The necessity to get wildlife to an expert carer as soon as possible is crucial to their chances of survival. A registered carer can provide essential first aid, fluids and often pain relief until a veterinarian can assess them.

Supporting Wildlife Care Providers

The cost of providing emergency care for wildlife is high. Many wildlife carers are self-funded, but the burden is also from a personal perspective in terms of the hours spent and stress incurred from dealing with animals that are suffering from often horrific injuries. If you are a nature lover and have an appreciation of wildlife, consider donating to your local wild animal care provider.

Large organisations often have volunteers that help with fundraising drives, but smaller individual carers often struggle for support. Many carers have a wish list so you may be able to help in more ways than just a cash donation. Do some research before providing any assistance to make sure you are supporting an ethical and legitimate wildlife rescue.

Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya is home to two of the only northern white rhinos in existence.

Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya is home to two of the only northern white rhinos in existence. Conservation organisations deserve support.

In Situ and Ex Situ Wildlife Conservation and Education Initiatives

One of the best things anyone can do for wildlife is to aid in situ wildlife projects. The term ‘in situ’ refers to the conservation of wildlife in their natural habitat. This work includes conservation initiatives aimed at preserving the habitat of endangered species, educating the local population on the need to maintain and protect a species, and targeting poaching and other direct threats. 

Ex situ conservation involves initiatives undertaken outside of the natural environment of a species. These include orphan rescue, re-introduction and relocation projects, captive breeding programs and educational initiatives. There are many projects worldwide both in situ and ex situ requiring support in terms of funding and some cases, physical volunteers.

Regardless of whether conservation is in situ, ex situ or in your backyard, the value of preserving species begins with making people aware of the consequences of losing the animals that share our lives. It is not just from a biological diversity aspect, which means nothing to many people, but from a much more personal viewpoint. Making people aware of the beauty and uniqueness that will be lost to future generations is an excellent place to start.

Further Reading: Vulture Restaurant, A Dining Experience with a Difference

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