For some of us, the word "conservation" conjures images of people chained to trees, for others, cuddly baby animals, and maybe some of us think of that crying Native American guy. This week I attended a conference in Seattle held by an organization called Zoos and Aquariums Committing to Conservation, so I had some time to think about what conservation really means to me.
Although sitting for 8 hours a day in the Sheraton Hotel might not seem like the most exciting way to spend a week, I was riveted. Rather than provide you with a play-by-play of the presentations (though I'm sure that would be thrilling) I'm going to highlight a few things I learned.
1.) Due to the introduction of the gray wolf into neighboring states, Washington state is now home to 17 wolves in 3 packs. Yay! Not everyone is as enthusiastic about wolves in the state as I am; preemptive measures are already underway to help mediate human/wolf conflict. Historically, almost 100% of these conflicts will involve human aggressors.
2.) Rubbing ground chili peppers on wire fencing will keep Asian elephants out of your crops (but not African elephants).
3.) Mars (the company, not the planet) is surprisingly socially responsible. The company sent a delegate to present about their program which employs indigenous people to pick the cocoa beans they use to make their chocolate. The local women use bark from the sustainably grown cocoa trees to make paper, which you can purchase here. Additionally, the company's Sustainable Solutions department has found a way to make all of their chocolate without the palm oil that is so destructive to the rainforest, and they're working on ways to get palm oil out of all their other products too. So everyone, eat Snickers, M&M's, Milkyways and Dove chocolates with a clear conscience!
4.) Reportedly, a chocolate shortage looms on the horizon. I didn't want to believe it, and after doing a little digging, it seems that it might be possible to avert the decline in the availability of the cocoa bean. We can only hope.
5.) Genetic scientists and virologists now believe that HIV jumped in several isolated events from non-human primates (several different species) to a human via activities involved in the bushmeat trade.
Also, scientists previously thought the strain of the virus found in chimps (SIV) was asymptomatic, but recent studies show 10-fold increase in early death for infected chimps.
Zoos are helping conduct so many exciting conservation projects all over the world. Despite the somewhat gloomy outlook for a lot of species and wild places, the overall vibe at ZACC was very positive. We CAN reverse this trend!
To prove it to you, here are some gratuitous pictures of animals I took at the Woodland Park Zoo.
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