Collaboration. Cooperation. Conservation. -- three principles that should guide our conservation efforts as we strive to preserve the world’s critically endangered biological heritage.
Collaboration means weaving the contributions of each zoo, NGO, governmental agency and other organizations into a larger, richer fabric than any of our single threads. In this way, the effect of each contribution is expanded far beyond a single contribution or its simple monetary value. The Saint Louis Zoo’s WildCare Institute with its 180+ partners represents an enduring and fruitful collaboration-- the combination of partners’ efforts is much greater than the contribution of any single zoo or institution.
Cooperation is evident by the number of other organizations coming together in a holistic approach that addresses research, conservation action and community development. For example, the Madagascar Fauna and Flora Group (MFG) brings together 27 members from five continents, including researchers from the University of Turin, to study amphibians; foundations in Switzerland to support community education; and a post-graduate program for a Malagasy veterinarian at the University of St. Louis Missouri, to name a few. With so many endangered species and habitats, the vast scope of current conservation requires this holistic approach that positions zoos and aquariums as critical partners and leaders in these efforts. We are an important part of the conservation equation with an unparalleled constituent base.
Conservation is evident in the four “pillars” of MFG’s actions which can apply to any conservation program: Conservation Action, Capacity Building, Environmental Education and Conservation Research. Together, they create a multi-faceted “One Plan” approach to conservation. Beyond protecting species and habitat, our work with local communities should be seen not as part of the conservation challenge, but as part of the solution. As Dr. Emile Tsizaraina, former Governor of Toamasina Province, Madagascar, has said, “For biodiversity to win, poverty must lose.”
Collaboration. Cooperation. Conservation. These principles are critical to addressing the many difficult and challenging conservation concerns we face now and in the foreseeable future. As some institutions seek sole “ownership” in individual programs, we must recognize that collaboration and conservation are a better approach, embracing teamwork that can most effectively advance conservation. In coordinated efforts such as the Madagascar Fauna and Flora Group, the Snow Leopard Trust, Sahara Conservation Fund, Grevy’s Zebra Trust, Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program and many, many others, each member of the group can implement these principles, not only by taking credit for specific portions of the group’s efforts, but also by taking “ownership” of the entire program. For when collaboration and cooperation drive our actions, then every institution, and most importantly, conservation is the winner.