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Sunday, December 15

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If home is where the heart is …

If home is where the heart is, then preventing habitat loss should be at the very heart of wildlife conservation efforts. All over the world, animal habitats are being destroyed by human activities like deforestation, pollution, mining, fishing and development. When habitats are damaged or eliminated, animals have a difficult time finding food, shelter and mates. The good news is that you can help!

One way you can help to reduce habitat loss is by eating less meat. Important ecosystems around the world, including tropical rainforests, are being cut down to clear land for agriculture. Soy, a prominent ingredient in industrial animal feed, is one of the biggest contributors. About 75% of the world’s soy crop goes into animal feed, so by moderating your meat consumption, you can significantly reduce pressure on the rainforest and other sensitive habitats. Plus, by consuming plants instead of animals, you are eating lower on the food chain, which means that fewer land and water resources overall go into the production of your meal. Going meatless even one day a week can also reduce your environmental footprint. Try practicing Meatless Mondays to reduce your diet’s impact on wildlife habitats.

Making sustainable choices about seafood can also help protect animal habitats from destructive forms of fishing. Trawling, which is when a large net is dragged across the seafloor, rips up habitats at the bottom of the ocean. Not only that, but it also indiscriminately captures everything in its path, which means that this accidental “bycatch” dies unnecessarily and is often thrown overboard. You can use sustainable seafood guides like the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program to ensure that you are eating sustainably caught seafood that does not damage marine habitats.

You can also help by recycling your electronics or keeping them for longer, rather than always rushing out to buy the newest cell phone model. The mining of coltan, an ore used in electronics, destroys animal habitats and creates contaminated runoff that pollutes ecosystems. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is one of the world’s leading producers of coltan, these mining activities threaten the Grauer’s gorilla. This critically endangered species has experienced rapid population decline in the last few decades, and scientists fear these gorillas will go extinct if we don’t do more to protect their habitat. So rather than just tossing your old electronics in the trash, recycle them so that the coltan can be reused.

Your individual choices matter. If you decide to do Meatless Mondays, buy sustainable seafood, and recycle your cell phones, the people around you will notice, and it may inspire them to change their own behavior. The more people we have setting positive examples for sustainable behavior, the faster we can create cultural change. So put your heart where their home is, and start taking action to protect wildlife habitats!

Danielle Linthicum
Youth and Family Programs Supervisor

Connect With Your Wild Side #onlyzooatl