Animal conservation is the act of protecting ecosystems and environments to protect the animals that live there.
The importance of animal conservation is immeasurable, at a time where our planet is currently experiencing the sixth major extinction event in the 3.6 billion years that life has been on it. This is also the first extinction event caused by humans and the only one to occur since the dinosaurs were wiped out some 65 million years ago. This is at a time where the rubbish patch in the Pacific ocean is larger than the U.S.A and where many baby birds swallow more shards of plastic than nutritious food!
But without trying to scare you away…there is also a lot of positive work beginning to show great results. From the downgrading of the snow leopard from ‘endangered’ to ‘vulnerable’ by the IUCN to the successful red squirrel conservation projects going on all over the UK, animal conservation is on our doorsteps and is happening all around us. Animal conservation also gives the unique opportunity to travel the world – conservation in the UK is very different to animal conservation abroad. Projects and animal conservation societies are being set up and developed all over the world every day, and along with that comes the urgent need for animal conservation volunteers and science specialists.
(Me relocating George to a quieter section of the beach)
Animal Conservation UK
I have been incredibly lucky and have been involved in many conservation projects, mostly through university. The conservation opportunities in the UK are just as exciting as those abroad. Everything from red squirrel monitoring to counting bat species in an area, the UK has thousands of conservation opportunities right on your doorstep. Living in the Lake District has given the unique opportunity to not only live in a National Park but to live in a World Heritage site! There is a massive mixture of animal conservation projects in the UK due to the diverse habitat that we have here, ranging from mixed woodland to sand dunes and saltmarshes. Each habitat has a large diversity of species that live in it and all of them need protecting and monitoring. So if travelling isn’t your thing, never fear! The UK is here!
(Pedro: my first solo seal relocation)
International Animal Conservation
Animal conservation is an international campaign, spanning thousands of projects and double the number of people, working tirelessly to protect our planet. From a student point of view, this gives an amazing opportunity to travel and experience new places. Something which I am incredibly excited to do!
I promise the travel bug is real and now I have seen conservation abroad, I can't think of anything I would rather do than travel and conserve. By travelling overseas, you not only give yourself the opportunity to experience countless cultures and to meet incredible people, but you also give yourself chance to see species and habitats you never thought you would. From the Amazon rainforest to the deep sea, there are amazing things to be discovered and each of these places is screaming for people to help conserve and protect them.
So what are you waiting for?!
What Animal Conservation is to me?
However, behind that definition is an incredibly personal explanation…
Animal conservation, in its true definition, is to love and fight for the wildlife you love and the habitat they live in. Animal Conservation jobs are usually filled by incredibly passionate and dedicated people, who have committed to spending their entire lives to defending the natural world. These amazing people do not spend all their time planning extreme marches or demonstrations (as many people assume). Instead, they spend it surveying, educating and travelling. Conservation scientists often end up with the less glamorous jobs like the early starts, the cold feet and the rollercoaster of emotions. The muck and grime and the exhaustion. Even as a student doing an animal conservation degree, I have already found myself stood in a bog at 5 am thinking ‘oh my what am I doing?’ then five minutes later seeing a doe and her young fawn through my binoculars at dawn. My point is that animal conservation jobs are incredibly difficult and time-consuming, but the skills and experience you gain from it cannot be compared to any other career.
(Class of 2020/2021 restoring a hay meadow during freshers week)
Why I chose Animal Conservation
My journey into animal conservation started when I was very young when I began watching animal documentaries with my grandfather. From there, the need for knowledge started and I was soon reading every animal-related textbook and news article I could get my hands on, as well as getting involved in several volunteering projects. My volunteering soon lead me into rescue and rehabilitation and by 16 I was working with the British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR), essentially standing on beaches at 6am in the wind, hail and freezing temperatures, trying to find a perfectly camouflaged abandoned seal pup! Since then I have been involved in countless seal rescues and now have progressed to qualify as a Marine Mammal Surveyor with ORCA. In short, I try to help rescue, rehabilitate and document as many marine mammal species as possible.
A massive part of these jobs is public relations, and my conservation passion really does lie within the education section. I cannot begin to describe the happiness that outdoor education can bring. The pure joy on a child’s face when they first see a hedgehog or when you help an elderly person identify their favourite garden birds are truly priceless experiences. The ability to educate and show people the natural world and allow them to fall in love with it is something I aspire to do for the rest of my life. Because in the words of Steve Irwin, 'people don’t destroy the things they love'…
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(Taking photos of Water Buffalo at Yala National Park in Sri Lanka)
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