We Are All Conservationists

Recently, a local Houston student asked us for an email interview to help her complete an English essay. We thought we’d share her questions and our thoughts on the answers.

Why is it important to conserve our wildlife? Conserving wildlife is important for many reasons, and may depend on one’s culture, background, region, experiences, etc. Overall, conserving wildlife helps ensure our planet has biodiversity (the variety of life in a particular ecosystem). When biodiversity loss occurs, we upset the delicate balance of food chains and natural relationships and processes, which ultimately will impact humans. Humans depend on wildlife and natural habitats for so many of our resources (water, food, medicine, etc.) and by losing wildlife and the habitats they live in, we can lose some of the most important resources we need to survive. Additionally, in some locations protecting wildlife helps to protect critical habitats, which is also important for the survival of all species on our planet. Further, many people would argue that living things like animals deserve to be protected because they are part of our planet, part of our ecosystems, and are living, breathing beings that deserve respect. Many cultures and traditions believe animals to be sacred, and that they serve a purpose beyond what we can see.

Tanzania, Africa
Tanzania, Africa. Elephants are highly regarded in many cultures and are known to maintain savannas and open woodlands by knocking down trees, allowing other important plants to grow.

What are the long-term benefits of conserving wildlife? As described above, long-term benefits of conserving wildlife include preserving our rich biodiversity for generations to come, ensuring protection and future use of important natural resources, and preserving important traditions and cultures that are deeply tied to wildlife and natural places.

What are the costs of conserving wildlife? If you mean financial costs, certainly they are high. Supporting field conservation efforts around the world is not cheap, however at the Houston Zoo we like to promote simple actions that don’t cost a lot of money that everyone can do to protect wildlife.

Take Action with the Houston Zoo! You can make small changes that make a big impact for wildlife.
Take Action with the Houston Zoo! You can make small changes that make a big impact for wildlife.

Do the benefits of conservation outweigh the costs? I may be a bit biased, but I believe so, or I wouldn’t be dedicating my career to this effort.

Should conservation be funded by a charity, the government, or some other source? I think it’s important to ensure every entity-whether it is charitable organizations, the government, NGO’s, etc. understands how wildlife and wild places relates to them so that they can see themselves as an important part of the solution, and will want to participate in conservation.

Is it important to educate kids and young adults on conservation? Why or why not? Absolutely! It’s important to bring everyone, no matter their age or background, into the conversation about saving wildlife. Making sure our natural places are protected is not solely up to younger generations, it’s a role we should all see ourselves in.

A Houston toad-a native Texas species, only found in tiny pockets of land in our state. Amphibians are critical bio-indicators, they alert us of potential issues in an ecosystem far earlier than other species.
A Houston toad-a native Texas species, only found in tiny pockets of land in our state. Amphibians (like toads) are critical bio-indicators, they alert us of potential issues in an ecosystem far earlier than other species.

How should we educate the younger generation about conservation? We are finding out through current research that providing information doesn’t necessarily lead to people becoming better stewards for our environment. That is not to say providing information isn’t important, but it might be more effective if traditional education is paired with time spent outdoors in natural places, observing, playing and interacting. I think it’s also important that people learn about conservation through doing-being participants in conservation efforts rather than simply learning about them in a book.

One of our Alternative Teen Break participants enjoying time in the Big Thicket planting long-leaf pine trees to save wildlife!
One of our Alternative Teen Break participants enjoying time in the Big Thicket planting long-leaf pine trees to save wildlife!

Why are zoos so important to wildlife conservation? Zoos are critical in wildlife conservation for many reasons. First, we have the capacity and skills to breed animals and maintain healthy genetic pools, which (depending on the species) may be needed for the wild population. Also, we breed and release animals that are critically endangered to help ensure specific species do not go extinct (in Houston we do this with Houston toads and Attwater’s prairie chickens). Further, we use a portion of all the money made at the Zoo to support more than 30 conservation projects in 16 countries around the world. We also provide our staff skills to these projects to help them with everything from website design to animal husbandry. Finally, we support wildlife conservation by ensuring as many of our 2.5 million annual guests as possible understand how animals are impacted in the wild, while giving them specific actions they can take to help preserve wildlife in their daily lives.

Our Zoo guests are saving wildlife!
Our Zoo guests are saving wildlife!

How will conserving wildlife and habitats benefit the ecosystem? By ensuring we have as much species diversity as possible, we can ensure that habitats and the animals in them are thriving. A healthy ecosystem, full of diversity, creates a healthy planet for all of us.

Is this a good career field to enter into? Why or why not? Absolutely! However, we would like to emphasize that no matter what career you go into, you can be a conservationist. So, you could be a graphic designer, a public relations employee, or a teacher (anything!) and still incorporate conservation into your work and personal life. You certainly do not have to have a title like “conservation biologist” to help save wildlife. It’s up to all of us, no matter our career.

Our Zoo graphics team is critical in our efforts to save wildlife. They assist with projects both locally and globally to provide important conservation information in a visually appealing way.
Our Zoo graphics team is critical in our efforts to save wildlife. They assist with projects both locally and globally to provide important conservation information in a visually appealing way.

What is some advice you would give to someone interested in entering this field? My advice would be to get as much experience as possible-volunteer, intern, meet as many people in the field as possible and keep up with your network. Show your passion and hard work and you will be placed in positions that are right for you.

 



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