Last night I attended a congressional staff briefing and panel discussion with WCS directors. The featured presentation “Conservation in Times of War: Safeguarding Biodiversity in Conflict and Post-Conflict Settings” is addressed in the WCS State of the Wild Report for 2010-2011. The panelists included Dr. Steven E. Sanderson (Wildlife Conservation Society President and CEO), Dr. Kent Redford (Director of the Wildlife Conservation Society Institute & Vice President, Conservation Strategies) and Mr. Peter I. Zahler (Deputy Director, Wildlife Conservation Society Asia Program).
I have yet to read the report, but the discussion that ensued regarding “on- the- ground” conservation efforts in some of the most remote and potentially dangerous regions of Southwestern Asia was most enlightening. Even with military activities taking their toll on local people and keystone species (e.g., snow leopards), WCS manages to reach out to impoverished people in these politically unstable regions to train them on practical endeavors (e.g., paraveterinary practices for livestock management) that cater to the health of domestic species, wildlife and people. They don’t simply send in conservation biologists to convince locals to invest in their wildlife resources, although interestingly enough ecotourism thrives in these countries, catering primarily to more affluent citizens. WCS works on capacity building and endeavors to strengthen local economies, improve preventive health care and sustainable use of natural resources. They take a very holistic approach and they often go to places that we’d never think of traveling to. They are pioneers in conservation and they keep pushing the envelope. The WCS is the Bronx Zoo- based global conservation organization which has several living collections (4 zoos; 1 aquarium) and staff conserving biodiversity all over the world.- Dr. Jordan Schaul, Zoo Keeper Emeritus