ZOO TO YOU: The future of the world is in your hands

1/30/2014

Conservation of our natural world comes in many forms: soil conservation, water, animals, etc. ... It's such a multi-faceted challenge, it can become mind boggling. At times you don't know where to start, and may feel that one person can't possibly do enough to matter. But that's exactly how it usually starts. One person here, another person there, and the next thing you know, there's a group. Then it becomes a movement, and lo and behold there's noticeable progress. And there have been improvements on many fronts. The American bison, bald eagle, black-footed ferret and California condor have all been brought back from the brink of extinction through human intervention of one sort or another.

Conservation of our natural world comes in many forms: soil conservation, water, animals, etc. ... It's such a multi-faceted challenge, it can become mind boggling. At times you don't know where to start, and may feel that one person can't possibly do enough to matter. But that's exactly how it usually starts. One person here, another person there, and the next thing you know, there's a group. Then it becomes a movement, and lo and behold there's noticeable progress. And there have been improvements on many fronts. The American bison, bald eagle, black-footed ferret and California condor have all been brought back from the brink of extinction through human intervention of one sort or another.

That's not to say all those species and many others are out of danger. There's still more work to be done, but progress is being made. Now if you're thinking, "OK, other folks have it covered," think again. Some conservation efforts have big opponents, and it will take a commitment of many to win the battle.

Poaching of some animals is big business; even organized crime has a hand in it. The money that can be made poaching elephant tusks can fund a lot of illegal activities other than just more poaching. It's not always the one lone local hunter just trying to find a way to feed his family by poaching a rhino and selling the horn or stealing a young primate from its mother to sell in the pet trade. It's often organized bands of poachers with high-powered automatic weapons and no thought for anyone but themselves.

This isn't a call for you to drop everything and fly off to the front lines to pick up arms against the poachers, illegal loggers or chemical dumpers. That would be a bit ridiculous and potentially quite hazardous. But something you can do is visit your local AZA-accredited zoo. When you support Lee Richardson Zoo, you support numerous conservation efforts through the zoo. Whether it's contributing to the body of veterinary knowledge on elephants, hatching trumpeter swans that become part of a re-introduction program or sending funds from the duck pond feeders to researchers battling the chytrid fungus that's wiping out vast numbers of amphibians worldwide, Lee Richardson Zoo is participating in the conservation fight.

I grew up in front of the television. My generation watched Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom with Marlin Perkins and Jim Fowler every Sunday night when we were young. Maybe that's where my conservation bug came from. My mother would limit how much television my sisters and I could watch in the summer. Time was to be spent outside, or reading, or something else other than watching television. Maybe that's where a love of the outdoors came from. But it may be simpler than that. Scientific studies have proven that spending time outdoors, in nature, is good for people. It helps you relax, and helps you focus. It's just self-preservation on our part to make sure we still have an outdoors to enjoy in the future.

Decades ago, not paying enough attention to practices that were recommended to help conserve soil contributed to the Dust Bowl. I'd hate to think where we could end up if we don't heed the call for conservation of our wildlife and wild areas. But that's not the picture to keep in your mind. Focus on what you want the world to be like in the future, and then do what you can to help make that positive picture come true. Do you want elephants and rhinos to still be roaming the earth, trumpeter swans still flying in the skies? You can help. Don't buy items made of ivory. Buy items responsibly grown and manufactured. Drink sustainably produced shade-grown coffee. Recycle what you can. Walk or bike every once in a while instead of drive. Plant bird- or butterfly-friendly plants in your yard. Support your local AZA-accredited zoo and the conservation work they're doing.

Visit our website at www.leerichardsonzoo.org.

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