March 16, 2021

What Will it Take to Up Our Conservation Commitments?

“When we share the planet with other living things, we survive together.”
—National Geographic, not ascribed

“Our conservation efforts are narrow, but deep.”
—Karen Fifield/Auckland Zoo

During our most recent Community Conversation, an international panel of speakers addressed the reductions in zoo and aquarium resources for conservation during the Covid-19 crisis, and more importantly, how we will recover our conservation efforts after the pandemic. Many who previously doubted the purpose of zoological institutions now have a clearer view of the importance of conservation in our missions. Several of the speakers noted that the crisis has refocused efforts on conservation and highlighted the importance of:

  • Preserving their conservation contributions and, even if reduced, have developed plans for the recovery of those conservation programs.

  • Harnessing not only the interest of donors, but the passion of staff.

  • Developing alternative support, behind-the-scenes tours, extra donation opportunities, and an increased focus on the use of social media for conservation education.

  • Focusing programs and maintaining long-term commitments to them:

    • The Wellington Zoo’s long-term support of Fauna and Flora International (FFI) in Southeast Asia

    • The long-term support of the Henry Vilas Zoo for orangutans

  • Storytelling about our animals, e.g., “Fiona” at the Cincinnati Zoo; Karen Fifield told of a stray Emperor penguin that was rehabilitated in New Zealand (and returned to Antarctica) that became a national celebrity. Both allowed a wider telling of our conservation mission.

  • Governmental aid during the crisis, as we have all noted animals cannot be furloughed:

    • In New Zealand, there has been a renewed focus on native species conservation.

    • The Chester Zoo, the UK zoo most reliant for 97% of their income on visitors, has failed to secure any substantial support from the UK government and is going through a very difficult financial bottleneck.

  • Small zoos in conservation, sometimes overlooked, can have major impact when focused.

  • Women in conservation, not only as participants, but as leaders, and the need for more diversity in the conservation field.

For Women’s History Month, it was emphasized that Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring changed the course of the environmental movement in the U.S. and we all can make that same difference. Special thanks to Carlos Galvis who shared Cali Zoo’s great example of leading amphibian conservation programs in their country.

We extend a big thank you to all of our panelists:

  • John Regan/The Regan Group (UK firm that advises zoological institutions on fundraising)

  • Karen Fifield/Wellington Zoo

  • Carlos Galvis/Cali Zoo

  • Ronda Schwetz/Henry Vilas Zoo

  • Abbie Kraus/Pueblo Zoo

Click here to view the full webinar recording.

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