Field ConservationRoxAnna Breitigan July 23, 2018
Field conservation can be defined as action that helps secure the long-term survival of species in its natural ecosystems and habitats. Projects in the field can be to recover a species, coordinate veterinary care for disease issues, create assurance populations, research, increase community awareness and facilitate educational opportunities for local peoples. This work is often done in remote and harsh environments. This work is no pleasure cruise or for those afraid to get dirty. In some places in the world it can be dangerous in a variety of ways. As we go about our daily lives, I think it is easy to forget that there are people out in the field all over the world who have dedicated their lives and are living the tough life on behalf of a species. It’s definitely not for everyone as it can be frustrating and challenging with sometimes just a glimmer of hope that you will be successful. It is not an easy lifestyle.
The group that gathered in Chad came here with purpose and determination to see the mission complete. We were here to collar the Scimitar-horned oryx that are next to be released into the wild. These collars will monitor them and be able to gather invaluable data on them so that more can be learned about them. This will allow for more informed decisions to be made in the future on their behalf. There were strategy sessions to determine what can be done, how it should be done and what should happen next while we were here. We started out with a Plan A, it feels now like we are on Plan W, with all the changes that have had to be made along the way. Field conservation definitely starts with a capital F for flexible. That has had to be the name of the game for all of us. Animal care people tend to be flexible anyway, in our line of work we need to be because animals can be so unpredictable so that has been helpful. We also know there is no time to hold grudges, we need to adapt, carry on, let the hurdles go and move forward however we can. So many things can go wrong, you just need to make changes on the fly and move on.
We were finally able to start the mission for which we were here for. The collars arrived late one night and we all jumped in to prepare them so they would be ready to go at first light in the morning. Bright and early at 4am we all rolled out of our perspective beds, tents, roof tops and cots to begin the work before the heat set in too much. We loaded the trucks with all the gear and headed towards the oryx, One by one they were brought to us so we could collar, tag, measure and assess before releasing from our hold. It is challenging work but we were all in good spirits as we were finally doing what we came here to do. It’s an amazing feeling to put your hands on an animal that has been extinct, knowing you are helping this animal survive into the future. All of the bruises we end up with, will be battle wounds we are proud of. We collared two mornings and one evening so we could complete the mission. They are tough, feisty animals which is good, they will need all the spunk they can muster to survive in the desert. We were just as tough and when the final oryx was released, there was an incredible sense of joy, relief and happy exhaustion.