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Hope & Despair in Conservation

Brian Horne, a postdoctoral fellow at the San Diego Zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research, has written a fascinating blog post on the issue of despair in conservation. Horne works on red-crowned roof turtle conservation projects in India which monitor populations and seek to improve survival-rates for captive-raised turtle and gharial crocodile hatchlings. (See iWild’s January 7 entry for more on the gharial). The project has also broken ground on an education center, located next to its turtle hatcheries, to provide training for forest rangers and “reformed turtle poachers.” Yet Horne was recently told by a colleague that “my turtle conservation projects in Asia, specifically India, have little chance of long-term success and that they were foolishly impractical.” The assumption that these endangered species would go extinct no matter what was done for them, Horne writes, left him “dumbfounded.” Yet, he acknowledges, such despondency is now commonplace within the conservation movement, as scientists grow overwhelmed by bad news and the idea that ” our conservation efforts are merely postponing the inevitable mass extinction of countless plant and animal species.” Happily, Horne is not persuaded by despair. I’m not either. While I’m hardly a sunny optimist in general, five years of reporting for Rewilding the World: Dispatches from the Conservation Revolution left me convinced that conservation is making a difference. I also believe, along with Horne, that just because we broke it doesn’t mean we can’t fix it: “Call me young and naïve,” he writes, “but I still think we can make a difference and that small actions today can have long-term positive conservation impacts.”
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