“Living on the Edge”
Journey To and Participate In the Front Lines of Conservation
Wally Van Sickle – Idea Wild
Have you ever wanted to be more involved with the front lines of conservation efforts – independently or with the support of your zoo? We can show you how! Two years ago at the 2001 AZAD meeting held in Chicago, IDEA WILD demonstrated how docents can easily and safely participate in conservation projects in the rainforests of developing countries. Projects involving jaguars, tapirs, macaws, primates, bats, orchids, and numerous other species will be highlighted in our power point presentation. We will cover what is needed in these projects, how little they actually cost, the benefits of biodiversity conservation, and how you can safely participate in these projects. We will also share important hints on how to stay motivated in your conservation efforts.
IDEA WILD was founded in 1991 to minimize the loss of biodiversity by empowering people who work on the front lines of conservation efforts in developing countries. We initiated work in Mexico, Central America, Colombia, and Venezuela during 1992-95. Additional South American countries were added in 1996-99, with the Philippines, Madagascar and West Africa added in 2000 IDEA WILD is unique to the conservation arena and provides basic equipment and supplies for biodiversity research and conservation education projects. We receive requests daily for basic tools from professors, students, and non-profit staff working to minimize the loss of biodiversity within their countries.
- Provides Equipment and Supplies In twelve years IDEA WILD has provided binoculars, mist nets, climbing ropes, computers, printers, global positioning systems, slide projectors, telemetry, video and 35mm cameras, and other equipment, directly to more than 800 conservation projects in 30 countries.
- Promotes Recycling IDEA WILD encourages equipment transfer from one project to another when the first is completed. On average, the equipment is used for at least three projects. Consequently, over 2400projects have used, or are currently using, equipment provided by IDEA WILD.
- Collects Data Hundreds of theses, management plans, technical reports, scientific papers, videos and educational materials for children have been created with the enormous amount of data collected with IDEA WILD equipment donations.
- Facilitates Training Professors, graduate and undergraduate students, non-profit staff, activists, and other nationals have all gained experience and skills using equipment donated by IDEA WILD.
- Fills Professional Positions – IDEA WILD recipients have moved up to fill positions in national parks, eco-tourism operations, zoos, universities, non-profit organizations, and government agencies with individuals experienced in biodiversity conservation.
- Creates Symbiotic Relationships IDEA WILD has created mutually beneficial relationships with numerous equipment suppliers resulting in discounted equipment, and consequently, more projects funded. IDEA WILD receives funding from direct mailings, slide presentations, merchandising, benefit auctions individuals, corporations, zoos, and private foundations and has increased funding every year since 1991.
How To Stay Motivated In Conservatio
By Wally Van Sickle
I’ve learned a few things during the last 17 years of doing conservation work with regard to staying motivated I would like to share with you. I believe it is very important we remain motivated as we proceed in the new millennium.
- Be an ecorealist the core principles are that logic, not sentiment, is the best tool for safeguarding nature (we cannot do conservation by emotion), that accurate understanding of the actual state of the environment will serve the earth better than expressions of panic (rely on facts not fear), and that in order to form a constructive alliance with nature men and women must learn to think like nature.
- Do not be afraid of change change is one of nature’s rules she changes all the time, it is inevitable and you can always find a way to use it to your advantage if you try hard enough do not spend tons of time and energy trying to keep things the way they were.
- Think of problems simply as new information not bad or good – they are simply lessons we need to learn to create a better future for all of us.
- Don’t be afraid to fail, it is very limiting; if you have good ideas and good vision keep that in focus. There will be stumbling blocks along the way but once again they are just lessons that will help you do better conservation work. If you do not face your fear of failure, you may never fail, but you also may never succeed.
- Be a positive leader you are all leaders of volunteers. If the leaders are pessimistic about the future of conservation, so will be the followers.
- Take time for your self away from conservation. You are all special people and deserve special time running, hiking, fishing, etc. I like to meditate half hour every morning and evening.
- Believe in your ideas, dreams, and visions. If you don’t believe in them, nobody else is going to either.
- Do not underestimate the power of the small. The ability of an individual you to go out into the world and make a difference, we often equate largeness with power, rather than seeing largeness is in fact a limitation to change think of smallness as a virtue not a limitation. “The Earth is a stage, each person has his own part to play… Greatness doesn’t lie in the role, but in how well we play it.”
Examples of Projects in Need of Funding
Many islands in the Caribbean have unique flora and fauna that, in many cases, have not even been documented. Ernesto Reyes Maurino is establishing an environmental education project to increase interest and support for the natural resources of the Caribbean. He will target residents, including school children, living in or near environmentally sensitive areas with high numbers of endemic birds. By developing an awareness of their rich natural heritage, and encouraging means to express it through art, essays, recreational and cultural activities, Ernesto and his team hope to establish a precedent, and contribute to solutions for environmental conservation in this region. He needs a digital camera. Cost: $450
High in the South American Andes, from 7,000 to 11,000 feet elevation, small colorful parrots of the Hapalopsittaca genus make their home. These birds are coming under increasing threat, as more and more people move into the higher Andes regions, and more forests are cleared for agriculture. Carlos Rengifo G. has located the nesting site of a flock of H. amazonina theresae, or rusty-faced parrot in the high country of Venezuela. These birds are found only in the Merida Mountains, and little is known about them. Carlos wants to take advantage of this unique opportunity to learn more about these rare, endemic birds. He needs a video camera and a quality audio recorder to complete this study. Cost: $1200
Salvador Montiel Ortega has a unique opportunity to study naturally fragmented forests in the Yucatan Peninsula. Like many people working for wildlife conservation, Salvador is concerned about massive reductions in forests, and the resulting impacts on animals left with only small patches of forests to call home. These naturally occurring fragmented forests will provide a means of comparison with artificially fragmented and intact forests. In particular, Salvador studies bats, because they play so many important roles in forest ecosystems. He will compare bat species variation, success, and abundance in locations of varying size and degree of isolation. This project will form the foundation of a conservation program in the region. Salvador needs mist nets. Cost: $550
War in the Democratic Republic of Congo has had far-reaching impacts. Many people have moved into the forests to escape violence, and depend upon the forest resources, including wildlife, for their food and income. The Congo peafowl is the only African pheasant, and is red listed as a vulnerable species. Currently, the population and distribution of this bird are unknown. Emile Mulotwa hopes to discover remaining populations of the peafowl, so that measures can be taken to conserve it. She will also document basic biology, diet, reproductive behavior, and so on, as little is known about this bird. She needs recording equipment and a night vision scope to carry out the study. Cost: $1200
“Heroes of the Planet” come in all shapes and forms, including that of Florian Werner. Florian’s intensive study of South American orchids has prepared her for the complex study she is initiating now: assessing the diversity and ecology of epiphytes in isolated forest patches in the mountains of Ecuador. Like many of its neighbors, Ecuador’s plant and animal diversity has suffered due to indiscriminant clearing of forests. Florian hopes to discover patterns in remnant trees that promote animal migration between forest patches and are conducive to conservation. He needs a digital camera to catalog plant species. Cost: $350
One of the most misunderstood and interesting seed dispersers in Neotropical forests is the tent bat. Tent bats are common in Costa Rica, and are often feared by people, despite the fact that they eat only fruit and are harmless. There is virtually no data on this strange mammal that makes a tent to roost in. Whether it is the male or female bat that makes the tent remains a mystery. Gloriana Chaverri hopes to learn more about these interesting creatures, and educate the local community about their ecological importance as well. She needs a GPS and a UV light to track the bats at night and observe the tent-building process. Cost: $550
Colombia‘s bird life is second to none, with approximately 1,860 species in the country. Yet the forests they live in are rapidly being cut down. Juan Pablo Lopez Ordonez is investigating how gaps in forest habitat affect the birds’ movements. He will also look at morphological characteristics to evaluate any advantages or disadvantages to different types of birds based on their physical characteristics. Juan needs mist nets, calipers, a headlamp, and spring scales to complete the study. Cost: $750
Caribbean parks contain a wealth of unique endemic plant life. Natividad Laritza Sanchez Abad is evaluating the ecology and conservation status of the vegetation in one such park. Natividad will also evaluate the human-related activities that present the greatest threats to the park’s flora, and will implement an environmental education program that will involve local school children and teachers, as well as the community, to protect these unique ecosystems. Natividad has requested a used laptop computer for the study. Cost: $450
Perhaps in anticipation of our pollution problems, Mother Nature has provided some solutions, namely cyanobacteria. Some strains of naturally occurring cyanobacteria are able to metabolize waste material, even heavy metals, assisting with the clean up of contaminated areas. Amit Kumar Srivastava is working to find strains that can alleviate the polluted state of soils in natural areas in his home, India. As India’s population swells, unregulated industrial development is increasingly contaminating the natural areas that remain. Amit is determined to help reduce this upward trend, and his project has been accepted by the National Botanical Research Institute in Lucknow, but he needs $200 to pay the study fees. Cost: $200
Screamers, as the name implies, are among the loudest of birds. These unusual, turkey-like birds are found in the marshes of Colombia, and have a layer of tiny air bubbles in their skin, the function of which is unknown. Juan Manuel Prada Ortiz is studying screamers, and he hopes that learning more about the natural history of the birds will help to protect them and their habitat. He needs recording equipment and a camera lens. Cost: $1200
The Chaco is the largest continuous forest in Argentina, and is currently under plans for development. It is also the only place on the planet where the world’s three species of peccary co-exist. Mariana Altrichter is assessing the status of the peccaries in relation to human and ecological factors in order to find feasible measures of conservation to prevent their disappearance. Mariana received funding to complete the study, but massive devaluation/inflation of the Argentinean peso left her project unexpectedly under funded. She has completed about half the study, and needs only $400 to complete it. Cost: $400
Like many national parks, Beni Biological Station in Bolivia has communities of native people living within its borders. The Tsimane communities that live there hunt wild animals for food, including some rare and threatened species of animals. David Manuel Kopp Valdivia is evaluating the abundance and types of animals that are hunted in an effort to determine the relationships of load capacity and the impacts of hunting on the diversity of fauna in order to improve management of the park. He requires a GPS, binoculars, a headlamp, backpack and tent to complete the study. Cost: $250
The use of hedgerows to connect isolated forest fragments has been implemented successfully in Costa Rica’s tropical forests. These “living fences” or narrow strips of native vegetation not cleared by farmers, usually around the perimeter of the property, act like highways for birds and plants to move between forest patches.
Marco Aurelio Pizo is investigating whether this strategy could be used to link fragments of Brazil’s Atlantic Forest. Specifically, he is addressing which birds use the hedgerows to move in between the forest fragments, how the availability of food differs between hedgerows and forests, and how the vegetative structure changes between hedgerows and forest. This conservation strategy may be an effective way to link conservation areas in Brazil, and Marco needs only colored legs bands, mist nets, and a spring scale to make this determination. Cost: $600
Carlos Julian Idrobo Medina is documenting the movements of resident understory birds between four forest fragments. He wants to find patterns in bird species, characteristics, or vegetation that enable to birds to move between forest fragments successfully, and as Carlos knows, this is increasingly important for bird survival. He needs mist nets, leg bands, a GPS, binoculars, and a headlamp to finish the study. Two other related studies will be conducted simultaneously with the equipment. Cost: $750
Colombia‘s rich abundance and variety of birds unfortunately does not insolate it from the threat of their extinction. As forests are cleared, leaving isolated fragments of habitats for this rich variety of birds, some seem to succeed better than others. Eduardo Gallo-Cajiao is assessing how fragmentation of forests has impacted bird species on each of the four sides of the Popayan area in the Andes. He is particularly concerned with patterns in factors that may contribute to extinction, such as body size, social organization, preferred stratum of forest, etc. He will need mist nets and a headlamp to carry out the study. Cost: $250
Essentially, with IDEA WILD, you are investing in the environmental consciousness of tomorrow by creating thousands of “life changing experiences and results” today! I hope you will be part of the team!
Wally Van Sickle
420 Riddle Drive
Fort Collins, CO 80521