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Conservation Biology

Panel Discussion, continued...

MORITZ:  The comment was that we are competing for the attention of students in terms of all the contending distractions in our culture and that many of the images and other resources that were displayed today would be of value for that purpose. I believe that those will be made available on the Website. So before the next BioForum, the text of these talks and the images will be made available at the Access Excellence Website.

CRAIGHEAD:  Maybe we can get Michael Jordan to endorse Grizzly Bears.

MORITZ:  Actually, I was at an IUCN meeting where we were talking about trying to get Sean Connery to do just that. So it's not so farfetched, I think. I have a question I'd like to ask each of the participants here. I wonder if you could each maybe give an example of a recent success that you're aware of here in conservation biology, an example of something, some really successful accomplishment that you could point to. Often we get discouraged and demoralized by some of these conversations and I wonder if maybe you could think of some examples that you could share.

ROOPNARINE:  Well, there's always the Arabian Oryx, which was down to just 20 or so individuals in zoos and was recovered and returned to Arabia. Of course, it had a lot of funding and a lot of interest. But they were pretty far gone and now they're back.

STERLING:  I would probably point to, I didn't mention that I worked in Madagascar for 15 years. My first knee jerk reaction was to come up with a Madagascar example. There's a portion of Madagascar that used to be a reserve in the 1960's but it was the intention to make a palm oil plantation. So they cut down primary forest to put in palm trees so they could make palm oil. But the problem was that they didn't have the pollinators for the palms in Madagascar so somebody had to climb each one of those trees and pollinate all of the flowers in order to produce the coconuts to get the oil. They got the oil and then they didn't have a palm oil factory.

So, this endeavor failed miserably. Fortunately, it only took up a small portion of the former reserve. This last year, a consortium of organizations, including the Wildlife Preservation Society, CARE International, and Xerxces Society, and the Missouri Botanical Garden, we established an international park in Madagascar that actually a lot of us worked on. It took us about five years to gather all the data in order to take into account people's needs and where people might go into the future and keep buffer zones in those areas outside of the reserves so that people actually could maintain their lifestyles but also preserve nature. This to me is an excellent example of collaborative, holistic use of biodiversity conservation.

CRAIGHEAD:  I think having recently left Tucson, one of the things I was impressed with was in the last two years was a series of decisions on part of the city was a lot of voting pressure from citizens of the city to set aside very, very large areas of wild Sonora Desert around the city, set aside and protect it from future development. These decisions have been made against a lot of pressure from the state government and developers and businesses by a city that is really struggling to survive in the shadow of Phoenix. So I thought that, at the time there, that really impressed me, with the city of Tucson, that citizens are willing to take those steps of the costs of future development and the future of employment and asked the city to protect the reason a lot of the people end up there in the first place.

MORITZ:  I'd like to mention examples just a little closer to home, I think we have several examples in California, of recent reintroduction or support for threatened species. First of all, I should mention as part of the Sustainable City Program here in San Francisco, there was a movement to reintroduce the Grizzly Bear to San Francisco. But it was felt that we needed to be a little more moderate and start with say sea otters --recently a sea otter was sighted back in the bay, probably one of those young males that Lance was talking about, sighted right up in Richardson Bay. We have elephant seals that have come back dramatically on this coast. We have gray whales, that's another wonderful example. And it may be too soon to say but it appears that the California Condor has been reestablished after tremendous controversy about capturing the last wild members of that species and then breeding them captively and then releasing them again. So those all seem to be good examples of how reintroduction has worked to some degree.


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