Wildlife Preservation Canada is a Canadian sister organization to the Durrell Wildlife Trust, founded in 1985 with a goal of continuing Gerald Durrell’s lifelong work of saving endangered species through hands-on conservation techniques. For over 30 years, Wildlife Preservation Canada has continued to realize Durrell’s dream through nation-wide species at risk recovery strategies, and educational opportunities for young Canadian scientists.
Since 1990, Wildlife Preservation Canada (WPC) has sent one biology graduate to participate in classroom and fields studies at Durrell Academy facilities in both the UK and island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. While in the program, the New Noahs learn a holistic suite of skills, including an understanding of the biology and ecology of small populations, recovery techniques, leading conservation projects, education and stakeholder management, and a research project in species recovery. Every Noah returns not only full of inspiration and hope to carry out conservation in Canada, but also equipped with the necessary knowledge to design and implement effective conservation projects.
When habitat protection isn't enough, effective ex-situ conservation strategies must include three key elements: ecological theory, practical conservation skills, and project leadership. While Canada’s formal education system excels at establishing scientiﬁc foundations, students wishing to pursue ex-situ conservation are often left tracking down their own opportunities for practical training. These opportunities are few, usually unpaid, and even expensive. Meanwhile, the soft skills needed for project management and stake-holder collaboration can be missed all together. WPC began the New Noah program, working with Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, to fill in this serious gap in Canada's conservation capacity.
Laura King, 2016's New Noah says that while her Canadian education and experience taught her biological theory and scientific knowledge, the post-graduate program in endangered species recovery changed the way she saw herself. “You start to think you can lead conservation projects too,” she says.
There has never been a greater need for Canadians with the skills and confidence to protect the country's most endangered species. Conservation efforts in Canada typically focus on habitat protection, but WPC estimates between 30 and 40 percent of Canada’s species-at-risk will need direct population intervention in order to survive. Although critical, habitat protection will not be enough to save them. WPC predicts the situation will only worsen as climate change and environmental degradation continue to destroy natural habitat. Now is the time for more direct population intervention measures in Canada, and more scientists who know how to lead them.
This is a controversial stance. Many in Canada think direct intervention is too invasive. However, Jessica Steiner, WPC's Conservation Program Director, and 2005 New Noah, argues these techniques can work hand-in-hand with habitat conservation as another tool in the preservation toolbox. She says scientists need to know how to conduct species intervention techniques well so they can be applied effectively when needed. This has always been WPC’s mission: to develop capacity for species-led conservation.
“This training in Mauritius is leading Canadian conservation projects,” says King. “[The New Noahs] are everywhere; we’re in pretty much every province. We’re leading non-profits and leading government. And we’ve all come from this tiny little island.”
Each New Noah keeps a blog of their adventures on Mauritius. Wildlife Preservation Canada has partnered with the Durrell Conservation Trust to bring you regular updates, as well as access to past archives, so you can journey alongside each Noah as they find the missing pieces of their conservation education and plan how they will use these skills back home. Hopefully one day we won't need anymore New Noahs, but until then, WPC and all the Noahs past, present and future will continue working to unite passion with sound conservation practice, and help transform Canada into a country of restoration and harmony.
Posted 24 July 2017