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The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, Wonderfully Wild. The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, Wonderfully Wild.

Monday Minute

Together We Are Stronger

James Danoff-Burg, Director of Conservation September 27, 2021

I just spent six of the most awe-inspiring, mind-expanding, and transformative days that I have ever had at a conference! The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) hosts a World Conservation Congress every four years, and this year it was in Marseille, France.

The Living Desert is a member institution of the IUCN, the most important conservation organization in the entire world. Just one example of their importance: you know how we say that the Black Rhino is critically endangered, that the desert tortoise is classified as vulnerable, and that any other species has a certain conservation status? IUCN volunteer scientists are the people who collectively examine and come to those determinations. In fact, myself and Kyle Mulroe from the Conservation Department have helped with determining the appropriate conservation status for the Peninsular Pronghorn!

In any case, IUCN has this quadrennial meeting and this year I was lucky enough to attend. I participated in a presentation that involved the conservation of the vaquita, which we work on in the Upper Gulf of California. I attended so many sessions that were loaded with so much new information and so many new ideas that my head was swirling!

What really heartened me, once my head finally stopped swimming, was how much what we are doing here at The Living Desert is at the vanguard of conservation. We are specialists and leaders in the zoo world in community based conservation, working with and supporting indigenous people and local communities. We are among the developers of a network of collaborators working to slow the illegal trade in endangered animals in Southern California. Also, we use the best, most reliable approaches that were discussed in combating climate change with sustainable projects on our grounds, caring for and releasing endangered species back into the wild, and pioneering successful care and breeding techniques with the animals in our care.

Many resolutions are considered at every World Conservation Congress (WCC), often these are the bases for laws that are considered and often adopted for every country around the world. This year, TLD was a co-sponsor for one of these resolutions that would help to reduce threats to the vaquita in the Upper Gulf of California. Fortunately this resolution was passed! I advocated for this passage with as many people as I could and was so gratified that we were successful. There were another 130+ resolutions that were considered during the congress ranging from climate change to financing conservation to indigenous people’s rights to the desire to protect 30% of the planet by 2030, and much more.

A resulting consensus document was produced at the WCC that was called the Marseille Manifesto that summarizes the seven main tracks that were discussed. This Manifesto is accessible here. If you’d like to read further about what was discussed at this historic World Conservation Congress, please do. Plus, who wouldn’t want to read a “manifesto”?!

Know that we at The Living Desert are representing desert conservation and the Coachella Valley at this, the world’s most important conservation meeting. We are proud members of the IUCN and will remain so. When conservationists work together we are stronger and more effective. This last week has really made clear to me the importance of the results of this gathering, and I am so grateful to have been able to have participated.

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