Saturday, February 27, 2010

A Conversation About Conservation

By Mark Bottell

Although the subject of wildlife conservation is fairly high profile, with gap year placements and volunteer tourism holidays becoming more and more common, there are still many projects around the world that are struggling to maintain enough funding and manpower to survive. So, once you decide that a wildlife conservation holiday is what you want to do, how do you choose where to go, and who to save? Is any one animal more important than another? Is any one in greater imminent danger than the rest? What an agonising decision to make! In order to weigh everything up, wouldn't it be great if you could have a chat with each of the animals and let them plead their case ...

The Lovely Leopard

The secretive and elusive leopard has one obvious thing in his favour - his undeniable style and stunning appearance. No one in the jungle is a smoother character than he, but good looks alone are not enough to ensure the future of your species. So just how would our spotted hero convince you to come on a date to his wildlife conservation project? Firstly he would point out his unique beauty is not only virtually inimitable (except perhaps by his distant cousin several times removed, the cheetah), but extremely useful as well.

He's not just a pretty face and his clever camouflage has enabled him to evolve into the jungles' most stealthy and cunning hunter. His reputation as an indiscriminate killer is unfounded, and in fact the leopard hunts only what he needs, so he would point out his attributes as a fair but firm team player. In danger from not only declining habitats but also from poachers for his prized coat, in perhaps his strongest argument of all, the leopard would remind you of how much more amazing that coat would look on the move, rather than on someone's floor ...

The Excellent Elephant

Surely the gentle giant of the jungle wouldn't need to try too hard to convince you that he needs to be high on your list of wildlife conservation efforts? But he would be quick to trumpet about his stature as the largest living land mammal (that's if he's an African Elephant), and the fact that his most recognisable feature, his magnificent trunk, is one of the most adaptable tools in the animal kingdom. He uses it as a hand, a nose, straw, a duster, a digger and a signaling instrument! Anyone that versatile is surely a most valuable member of the jungle? With few enemies, the elephant lives as part of a stoic family unit and perhaps he would argue that as the nice guy of the jungle, he should be preserved to keep the peace with his firm but fair hand (errm ... foot).

The Terrific Turtles

Not commonly thought of as endangered, the poor old turtle does indeed have to work very hard for his survival. In fact, Marine turtles are amongst the most threatened animals in the world. But if you met this cute, hardy fellow, surely his wildlife conservation project would be the one to win your heart? He would remind you that he was one of Nature's most self-sufficient creatures and, far from being a drain on the eco-system, in fact he carries his own home on his back! Not just tough on the outside, this robust little soldier has a heart like a hero, and he could stick his neck out by suggesting that if God helps those who help themselves... then he should be a prime candidate for your assistance!

Mark Bottell is the General Manager for Worldwide Experience, an online tour operator offering extended breaks in wildlife conservation holidays and various adventurous gap years for adults.

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