Monday, May 24, 1999

Expert: World's wildlife suffering

Conservationists called to action

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Despite advances in conservation and endangered-species breeding, wildlife continues to face more and deadlier threats globally, an internationally renowned conservationist said Sunday.

        Conservationists in zoos and in the wild must collaborate and prioritize endangered species for preservation, Wildlife Conservation Society President William Conway said. They also should create new parks and sustain faltering ones to save ecosystems and habitats, he said.

        “Wildlife populations are diminished, dispossessed, fragmented and dying over most of the world,” Mr. Conway said. “Not one nation on Earth has made preservation of its biological environment a budgetary priority.”

        Mr. Conway was the keynote speaker in the Seventh World Conference on Breeding Endangered Species. The five-day conference, which kicked off Saturday, drew about 400 conservationists from 28 countries to the Albert B. Sabin Convention Center downtown.

        The convention, hosted by the Cincinnati Zoo, the Columbus Zoo and The Wilds in Cumberland, Ohio, has been held periodically since 1972.

        Mr. Conway urged his colleagues to think big, literally.

        Landscape species — typically big and/or migratory animals — should top their list of animals to support, Mr. Conway said. Such animals require a lot of space to ensure their survival, and their existence affects entire ecosystems, he explained.

        “The continued survival of two species of elephants is of greater importance to society, to other creatures, and to the ecology of very large areas of nature than two species of tiger beetles or guppies or warblers,” he said.

        While breeding endangered species has become more sophisticated and productive, he said, zoos continually encounter more bureaucracy governing the acquisition of rare animals. Breeding space also is limited.

        Wealthy societies should support conservation efforts, he stressed.

        “Conservation is fundamentally a political and socioeconomic problem,” he said. “The long-term preservation of nature is profoundly at odds with short-term economics, and irreconcilably with human overpopulation.”

        Mr. Conway applauded the Cincinnati Zoo for its outreach to the community. Enticing more citizens to appreciate wildlife is key to animals' continued survival, he said.


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