The human race may not fit the technical definition of an invasive species. However, it certainly ticks a lot 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, 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. So what can the individual do to help?
Wildlife Conservation and Education
Conservation in Your 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. However, if a common species struggles, a rare species has no hope of survival.
The expansion of suburban and industrial areas happens in a way that most people remain blissfully unaware of the devastation caused by land development. Demolition and construction occur while the land is cordoned off. Once the work is complete, the area is populated. However, by this time, the remnants of the original residents have become almost invisible to the invading population. How many people pass by water birds clinging to the remains of their wetlands habitat without even being noticed?
Conservation of endangered species is undoubtedly desirable. However, addressing the loss of habitat and other environmental pressures facing all species, including common species, is also essential. Unfortunately, it takes very little for a common species to become rare. In addition, it is often too late to halt the species’ decline once that has happened.
Purple swamphen, a common resident in suburban wetlands.
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Suburban Wildlife Conservation and Education
One of the best things to help wildlife recover from habitat loss is to replant your garden with native plants. Doing so replaces the lost vegetation and will attract birds back into your garden. In addition, water is also essential, but you need to be sure that you keep any water provided clean to prevent doing more damage than good. Finally, feeding local wildlife can be problematic, often leading to dependence, dietary deficiencies and illness, so replacing natural habitat is preferable to feeding.
Taking Responsibility for Your Actions
Be aware of what your pets are doing, both in your backyard and when walking. Injury caused to wildlife by roaming domestic cats and pet dogs is common. You only need to watch birds’ reactions to passing dogs in local ponds and park areas to know that they are used to being terrorised by them. In addition, pets often disturb birds like bee-eaters, plovers, and many other species that nest on the ground. Furthermore, in some areas, the disturbance to breeding grounds leads to the total loss of a species.
It would help if you were mindful when disposing of your waste products. Pollution caused by chemical runoff can devastatingly affect local wildlife. Equally important, stay on top of proposed developments that may harm local wildlife. Finally, be prepared to stand up and have a say in what gets approval in your area. Unfortunately, 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.
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. By the time they do so, infection or further injury has occurred, often resulting in the animal’s death. 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. In addition, all wildlife care should aim to return the animal to where it came from, not to provide you with a new exotic pet.
While attending to injured wildlife is admirable, it is also essential that the care provided is appropriate to the animal. Furthermore, injured, orphaned, and ill animals must be kept warm and quiet, usually in a darkened area away from prying eyes. Additionally, caressing and stroking might make a frightened pet feel better, but it adds to the stress level of wild animals. Finally, getting 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 pain relief until a veterinarian can assess them.
Supporting Wildlife Care Providers
The cost of providing emergency care for wildlife is high. However, many wildlife carers are self-funded, but the burden is not only financial. Hours spent providing care and stress incurred from dealing with animals suffering from often horrific injuries can take a toll. So, if you are a nature lover and appreciate wildlife, consider donating to your local wild animal care provider.
Large organisations often have volunteers that help with fundraising drives. However, smaller individual carers often struggle for support. In addition, many carers have a wish list, so you may be able to help in more ways than just a cash donation. Finally, 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. 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 aiding in situ wildlife projects. In situ refers to wildlife conservation in their natural habitat. This work includes conservation initiatives to preserve the habitat of endangered species. In addition, it educates the local population on the need to maintain and protect a species and target poaching and other direct threats.
Ex situ conservation involves initiatives undertaken outside of a species’ natural environment. These include orphan rescue, re-introduction and relocation projects, captive breeding programs and educational initiatives. Furthermore, there are many projects worldwide, both in situ and ex situ. These require support in terms of funding and some cases, physical volunteers.
Regardless of whether conservation is in situ, ex situ or your backyard, the value of preserving species begins with education. Conservation education raises awareness by making people aware of the consequences of losing the animals that share our lives. Finally, it is not just from a biological diversity aspect, which means nothing to many people, but from a more personal viewpoint. Making people aware of the beauty and uniqueness that future generations will lose is an excellent place to start.
Further Reading: Vulture Restaurant, A Dining Experience with a Difference