Wednesday, September 18, 2013

In-Situ Conservation Part I

Conservation Biology is a booming discipline. I don’t know whether to add “fortunately” or “unfortunately” to that previous sentence. As the human population expands, there is less and less room for other creatures and living things on this planet. There’s only so much space to be had. Yet, many people are interested in protecting ecologically valuable areas, improving biodiversity, saving endangered species, etc.

Burning sisal to plant more
Conservation work is varied but there are two main categories of work: in-situ conservation and ex-situ conservation. In-situ means within the country. Examples of in-situ conservation efforts include transferring species to available areas, teaching locals about resource management, and creating protected parks within the country. Ex-situ conservation work examples include breeding species in zoos, informing people of the dangers of buying products made from wood harvested from the Amazon, etc.

This post is dedicated to in-situ conservation, or what I’ve learned here in Madagascar. Madagascar is currently experiencing rapid deforestation (like many places across the world), leaving primates and other flora and fauna with less and less space. So much of the life on this island exists only in Madagascar and it is a hotspot of biodiversity.

Fields for grazing and growing rice outside of Antananarivo
Forests are cleared for multiple reasons. It is cleared for charcoal, it is cleared to make living space for Madagascar’s increasing population, it is cleared for sisal plantations, etc. It may seem easy to judge and ask why a government or a people wouldn’t want to protect these unique species or ask how could someone possibly hunt and eat a primate, but let’s remember cultural relativism. Let’s remember to walk a hundred or a thousand miles in another man’s shoes before judging. I’ve done a lot of walking here, both in the forest and across all of the sand roads (no need to pay for a pedicure to exfoliate my feet, that’s for sure). Half of Madagascar’s population lives on less than one dollar a day. If you’re starving and have little money, of course you are going to buy inexpensive charcoal, which contributes to deforestation, over gasoline which is more expensive but better for the environment. If you can’t feed your family, then problems like preserving biodiversity hardly seem urgent. As for judging a country’s government and their priorities, investing roads so that people can travel to each other usually takes precedence over preserving parks. Lowering the illiteracy rate, creating jobs, and strengthening the economy are all likely more pressing to the general public and therefore the government than conservation.

Which of the following is NOT an example of in-situ conservation efforts:
A.   Foreign researchers hosting an event within the country where local biologists learn to apply for conservation grants to fund their work.
B.   Undergraduate students volunteering in local schools, teaching others about endangered wildlife surrounding their community.
C.   A WWF initiative moving endangered rhinos to protected areas.
D.   A fundraising event for cheetahs to increase money for zoos looking to help this species by increasing genetic diversity.
E.   All of the above are examples of in-situ conservation efforts.
F.    A and D

Answer: D

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