What is conservation?
It’s a word you probably encounter every time you visit the Zoo or read something we post online, but what does it mean? There’s not really an official definition, but I like to think of conservation as anything that helps wildlife or the environment. This includes individual action, environmental laws, non-governmental programs for wildlife, sustainability initiatives, and so much more. Regardless of the type of conservation work, it’s important to know that it’s a team effort. Individual action is more impactful when more people participate. Environmental laws are only effective when there’s framework for monitoring and enforcement. And programs for wildlife rely on broad networks of support, often including volunteers and donors.
That’s why Zoo Atlanta works with a diverse collection of conservation programs to protect wildlife and wild places. From the world’s smallest turtle species (bog turtles) right here in Georgia, to Earth’s largest land mammal (elephants) in Africa, we’re proud to support a variety of projects around the world working to preserve biodiversity. Throughout this year, our Conservation Blogs will highlight the partnerships that you make possible through your support of the Zoo.
These partnerships are as diverse as the wildlife and ecosystems they’re working to protect, but they all meet certain criteria that Zoo Atlanta assesses when choosing which projects and programs to support. First and foremost, they must address the specific threats to the species or ecosystem they aim to protect. For example, if the primary cause of a species’ population decline is habitat loss, rear-and-release efforts are unlikely to be effective without protected habitat to provide a safe environment for released animals. Using a science-based approach is also essential to success.
Since threats to wildlife are typically interrelated, conservation programs must be multi-dimensional to be effective. Whether we’re considering a one-time grant or a long-term commitment, we look beyond ecological and scientific endeavors to evaluate how potential partners work with their local communities. For example, do they support the local economy by training and hiring from nearby communities? Are they thinking about the future and building capacity by training local students to participate in their work? Do they offer educational programs and/or host community awareness events? These are all indicators that a project is likely to deliver long-term benefits to both wildlife and people.
These are just some of the criteria we look for in potential conservation partners. As you follow along with us throughout the year, we’ll highlight the amazing work our colleagues in conservation are doing across the globe to protect and preserve wildlife. We hope you’ll be inspired to get involved by either taking action at home or by joining us in supporting our partners in conservation. Wildlife and wild places need us.