Hope, Is a Furry Bundle

In the environmental field, these days at least, you often hear more of the negative stories of wildlife conservation and natural resources than you do about the positive things that are going on.

One of the great capacities of North American Zoos and Aquaria is their participation in programs referred to as species survival programs (or SSPs).  Essentially these programs identify which endangered or threatened animals in zoological collections should be encouraged to breed.  In many cases, the resulting offspring are used to bolster the population both within the zoological community.  In the best cases, the offspring wind up in halfway facilities with the intention of joining new breeding programs, or to be carefully observed and evaluated for eventual release back into the wild. 

The success of these programs was nicely demonstrated by one species in particular, one that is close to my heart – the red wolf (Canis rufus). 

This species used to range all along the Eastern seaboard of the US and west to the Mississippi.  Because of hunting, fear, and especially loss of habitat, this species is actually now extinct in the wild (being declared this status in 1980).  At one point in history, we were down to just fourteen acceptable true red wolves left on the planet!

An SSP was established for the remaining wolves, and a strict studbook was developed and kept to track the genetic bloodlines of the wolves.  Today there are over three hundred red wolves in the world, with a full two-thirds livings in zoos, and just over a hundred living in release facilities and on the lands of state and national parks.  Their future is still precarious.  Without habitat, without a place to live, there will be no red wolves.

But I did say this wasnt about doom and gloom.  In fact, I wanted to write today mainly because some things bring with them an enormous sense of hope and possibility.  I like to look at all the complex issues in my field this way – with hope.

Hope, this time, arrived in the form of two fluffy bundles.  For the first time in several years, our zoo has a litter of pups again.  They are cute beyond description. 

(This photo isnt mine.  It is one of the pups.  If I were that close, I’d have surely lost my mind and attempted to hug the poor little thing.)

There are other, similar, signs of hope around the zoo as well.  Not only are the tilapia breeding in the crocodile exhibit, the mallards and wood ducklings are already half the size of their parents.  The sandhill cranes (my former foes) finally hatched out two fluffy brown chicks. 

But its really the wolves that inspire a positive outlook.  Literally brought back from the brink, you have to wonder what will be in store for the new little lives that entered the world. 

To learn more about wolf conservation in the US, I happen to like http://www.defenders.org.


One Comment to “Hope, Is a Furry Bundle”

  1. Touching/Inspiring post sarah!