By Rick LoBello
This past week I attended a Zoos and Aquariums Committing to Conservation conference in Jacksonville, Florida. Nearly 300 conservation leaders from around the world working at zoos and aquariums and in the field came to be inspired, connect with each other and pledge to increase strategic actions in support of a wide array of conservation efforts.
We heard from people working on projects in the Americas, Africa and Asia. Many of the stories we heard were both dramatic and eye opening. Sonya Kahlenberg of the Grace Center in the Democratic Republic of Congo told the story of how the community the Center is reaching out to came together to save the orphan Grauer’s gorillas living there. One day the Center and the gorillas were threatened by a group that was planning to overrun the facility. Fortunately all of the Center’s efforts in gaining community support over the years paid off when the locals intervened and prevented the group from entering the area.
Charles Foley from the Wildlife Conservation Society in Tanzania reminded everyone of how important it was for zoos to send staff to field conservation areas so that they could connect with projects and bring back personal stories to zoo audiences.
I was especially interested in talking to Marc Ancrenaz of the Hutan-Kinabatangan Orangutan Conservation Programme about the palm oil crisis. I told Marc that I believe that the most important thing that needs to happen in the US is legislation that bans the importation on non-sustainable palm oil. He told me about legislation recently approved by the EU. I plan to learn more about this effort in hopes of proposing similar legislation for the US.
To learn more about this conference check out the ZACC website.