September 28, 2011
|The Wildlife Conservation Network is holding its annual Wildlife Conservation Expo on Saturday, October 13, 2012 from 10am to 6pm at the Mission Bay Conference Center in San Francisco, CA. The lineup includes 20 prominent conservationists.|
The Wildlife Conservation Network's co-founder, Charles Knowles, looks back at a decade of hands on work in conservation.
The following is an interview with Charles Knowles, the WCN's Executive Director and co-founder.
Mongabay: Please tell our readers what motivated you to start the WCN a decade ago?
Charles Knowles with cheetah.
Mongabay: How do you think conservation has changed during the last decade?
Charles Knowles: There's no question that technological advancements have been a tremendous boon to conservation. When I started working with Laurie, who is based in Namibia, communication with her was done by sending a $4 fax to a hotel an hour away that she could pick up once a week. Obviously email, Skype and the internet have allowed instant communication anywhere. In addition, genetic analysis and satellite tracking were virtually nonexistent. All of these technologies have come together to make conservation much easier and more integrated.
Mongabay: Looking back, please relate both "triumphs and challenges" that have occurred for the WCN over the past ten years.
Charles Knowles: Our conservationists have made tremendous inroads in their work. Some examples are:
* Wildlife populations, like those of Ethiopian wolves, are being stabilized in areas where they were in deep decline.
* Conservation programs have been established where they never existed before for species like the cheetah in Botswana and the Saiga antelope in Russia.
* Work with local communities across all of the projects is helping to build a local conservation ethic—perhaps the most important driver of change over time.
* The base of understanding for wildlife populations and their behaviors that's critical for sound conservation policy is growing through important research undertaken by WCN projects, some of it globally recognized.
As mentioned, under funding remains a huge challenge. Also, the rise of the middle class in Asia has led to unprecedented levels of poaching, especially of elephants and rhino.
Wildlife conservation is a war. We win a few battles here and there, but there are ever increasing threats to wildlife which require ever increasing effort, commitment, and funding.
Mongabay: Please give our readers a little history of the WCN Expo, and offer highlights of this weekend's event.
It is a wonderful network of conservationists, volunteers, and donors. Where else can you hear first hand stories from the front lines of conservation and actually go up and meet these people and support them, knowing that 100 percent of your gift goes directly to their work on the ground? It's fantastic seeing this conservation community grow. It's fabulous!
Dr. Jane Goodall. Photo courtesy of the Jane Goodall Institute.
Dr. Jane Goodall, DBE and UN Messenger of Peace will keynote this year's WCN Expo.
Other interviews with WCN participants
Loving the tapir: pioneering conservation for South America's biggest animal
(09/11/2011) Compared to some of South America's megafauna stand-out species—the jaguar, the anaconda, and the harpy eagle come to mind—the tapir doesn't get a lot of love. This is a shame. For one thing, they're the largest terrestrial animal on the South American continent: pound-for-pound they beat both the jaguar and the llama. For another they play a very significant role in their ecosystem: they disperse seeds, modify habitats, and are periodic prey to big predators. For another, modern tapirs are some of the last survivors of a megafauna family that roamed much of the northern hemisphere, including North America, and only declined during the Pleistocene extinction. Finally, for anyone fortunate enough to have witnessed the often-shy tapir in the wild, one knows there is something mystical and ancient about these admittedly strange-looking beasts.
Sowing the seeds to save the Patagonian Sea
(09/07/2011) With wild waters and shores, the Patagonia Sea is home to a great menagerie of marine animals: from penguins to elephants seals, albatrosses to squid, and sea lions to southern right whales. The sea lies at crossroads between more northern latitudes and the cold bitter water of the Southern Ocean, which surround Antarctica. However the region is also a heavy fishing ground, putting pressure on a number of species and imperiling the very ecosystem that supplies the industry. Conservation efforts, spearheaded by marine conservationist Claudio Campagna and colleagues with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), are in the early stages. Campagna, who often writes about the importance of language in the fight for preservation, has pushed to rename the area to focus on its stunning wildlife.