World Endangered species day: The zoo community is taking action! And you?

Next May 19 has been declared World Endangered Species day. Dozens of conservation organizations as well as the international community of zoos and aquariums are combining their efforts to celebrate this day; yet, when you think about it, should we be celebrating or should we be alarmed?

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), 30% of the 80,000 known and studied living species of the planet are threatened by extinction:

  • The National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) reports that, every day, dozens of species disappear even before they have been discovered.
  • In its The Living Planet report of 2016, the World-Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) confirms a decline of 58% in the vertebrae population between 1970 and 2012.

We can therefore say that in less than 50 years, the planet has deteriorated greatly and our biodiversity has taken a rapid downward trend.

Nothing in this introduction gives us reason to celebrate … but let’s read on. 

Our annual world growth is of 4 births per second. At this rate, it will take two planets to answer all the needs of Homo sapiens between now and the end of the century… Since the industrialization era, barely 200 years ago, we have gone from 1 to 7.5 billion humans. The main threats to biodiversity are directly related to human activity. No … really? I hope nobody is surprised by this… More human presence means more space created for agriculture, transportation, wood consumption and fossil fuels… For animal habitats, this is synonymous with deforestation, pollution, poaching, conflicts between humans/fauna and, of course, a radical change in the Earth’s climate.

All these threats and changes upset our ecosystem and we have no idea about what the future holds for us. Humans, in the end will also be highly affected all these changes.

So, what can be done? Do we celebrate or do we alarm ourselves on this World Endangered Species Day?

Well, with all due respect, I prefer to celebrate and still be optimistic. Why?

  • Because in 2016, more than 200 American zoo institutions, of which Zoo de Granby, have invested $250 M in 121 countries in order to protect 227 endangered species.
  • Because my neighbours and friends have formed citizen groups creating awareness with our elected officials, urging them to take action.
  • Because some governments have understood the need to protect future generations and the importance of all the ecological services nature gives us (air and water quality and supply, ecotourism, pollination, medical research, food resources…).

When you visit Zoo de Granby, the money you spend is in fact your investment in our nature protection actions. By doing so, you become our partners in all our initiatives for conservation! The zoo works outside its walls for the Eastern softshell spiny turtle of Lake Champlain, for the preservation of the Boisés-Miner in Granby, for Quebec’s bat population, for the fight against elephant and gorilla poaching in Cameroun, etc.

It’s now your turn to act on this World Endangered Species Day! Share this message, plant a tree, write to your elected officials or walk for the cause. Yes, it’s time now to celebrate optimism and hope. We have only to think of Przewalski’s horse, the Vancouver Island marmot, the Canadian black-footed ferret, the California condor and so many other species that have been saved from extinction thanks to the work accomplished by hundreds of zoos and aquariums, located all over the different continents and to the 700 M visitors that pass their gates every year.

Patrick Paré  | biologist, M.Sc.
Director, Conservation and Research
Zoo de Granby