In "Wildlife Heroes," Julie Scardina and Jeff Flocken profile 40 leading conservationists who are helping thwart today's most pressing threats to the our planet's wildlife. Read an excerpt.
The wildlife heroes featured in this book are forty individuals we admire and respect — acclaimed for their vision, determination, and success. Some of them we have known for many years and worked closely with, while others we only knew before this book through knowledge of their impressive accomplishments, or from their stellar reputations in the field of wildlife conservation.
Admittedly, the assemblage of species we chose to highlight show a bias of the authors, as we have our own personal love for certain animals and direct experiences working in particular conservation arenas. So while we both have great fondness for critters like the obscure dwarf wedgemussel and the underrated dung beetle, and understand their important roles in their habitats, this book tends to feature the big charismatic species, the same ones who rightly or wrongly tend to receive the most conservation resources and public attention. Luckily these same high-profile animals frequently serve vital roles as keystone, flagship, and indicator species, thereby arguably deserving the lion’s share of adoration they receive.
These individual species, like the heroes selected for the book, were also chosen as being best suited to bring a broader message of conservation need, and inspiration for action, to readers. We are compelled to feature these heroes, species and issues as we both feel the heartbreak of what is happening to the wild animals and wild places we love. Unless more people help fight the war we are currently losing to save species, wild lands, and ocean habitats, there will be far less of these incredible creatures and environments left in the world.
The heroes in this book have dedicated their lives to preserving these creatures; animals that are beloved by the world because they are both compelling and fascinating. We are proud to shine a light on them all. And we sincerely hope that this book will result in more support for the heroes’ critical efforts and in meaningful gains in the struggle for existence of these amazing species.
—Julie Scardina and Jeff Flocken
EARTH: WORKING ON THE GROUND
BY KUKI GALLMAN, ACCLAIMED AUTHOR OF ‘I DREAMED OF AFRICA,’ ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVIST, AND FOUNDER OF THE GALLMAN AFRICA CONSERVANCY.
Caring for Eden
It was about forty years ago that I moved to Kenya and acquired the responsibility to look after a piece of heaven on the Eastern Great Rift Valley, Ol ari Nyiro, a biodiversity oasis of rugged, dramatic landscapes, with a relic forest and natural springs, gorges, and ravines, where endemic species of wildlife and flora survived and still do, in stark contrast with the now degraded landscape surrounding us, from where most indigenous vegetation has been removed.
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In the very early ’80s, after the tragic deaths of both my husband and my son within a short space of time, witnessing the tragic environmental degradation and loss of habitat and species occurring all around Kenya, I resisted attempts from friends and family to get me to abandon Ol ari Nyiro to its destiny and return to my native Italy, and actively joined the great world environmental movement. I decided to dedicate my life and resources to making a difference and to make Ol ari Nyiro an example of coexistence between people and the wild.
I became a Kenya citizen and a spokesperson for my adopted country on matters of environment, and transformed the place from an operating livestock ranch into a nature conservancy with no domestic stock, where all life is nurtured and protected.
What was happening at that time? With the collapse of Somalia and deserters from that country’s army infiltrating the northern parts of Kenya — their only wealth their weapons — the killing of rhino and elephants became an unprecedented issue in Kenya, and, having lost nine black indigenous rhinoceros in Ol ari Nyiro in less than one year, I decided to do something about it. I started the first private antipoaching unit in Kenya.
What was beginning to happen — and has happened since — all around us, and throughout Africa and the planet, is the drastic restriction in wildlife habitat, pressures of all kinds due mostly to population increase, change of land use from pastoral to agricultural land, consequent interruption of migratory routes, deforestation, pollution, overgrazing, erosion, siltage in lakes, climate change with subsequent droughts, lack of job opportunities for growing populations of tribal youth and the concurrent growth of demand for wildlife products in the surging markets of the Far East, insecurity, tribal conflicts, and, in Kenya, the proliferation of small weapons from the troubled neighborhood of Somalia and the Sudan.
This, in conjunction with the soaring black markets stimulated throughout the Continent as a consequence of the sales of ivory allowed by CITES in 2007, after the twenty-year moratorium in all sales initiated by the ivory fire in Kenya in 1989, has signified an increase in poaching and illegal trade of animal body parts throughout the continent of Africa, and in particular from elephants, rhino, lions, snakes (pythons), tortoises, in addition to leopards, and plants — African sandalwood, a once-common shrub, has become rare—just to mention the most dramatic and tangible species loss. As an honorary game warden with the Kenya Wildlife Service, I have committed to do all in my capacity to fight the illegal trade that is at the root of the cruel and senseless killings that I witness continuously in the African bush.
The commitment to active conservation of the wild parts and inhabitants of our Earth demands time, stamina, vision, dedication, and daring. It can be dangerous, but in my case, despite several physical attacks (one of which crippled my left hand) and endless threats, this is one battle that I am determined to keep fighting with all the means at my disposal since I passionately believe in our responsibility to protect what has never been easier to destroy.
I am honored to introduce this impressive list of wildlife heroes, all leaders in their chosen fields, men and women of extraordinary expertise, talent, and courage, who spend and often risk their lives in the front line of conservation in remote and often lonely parts of our planet, to ensure that today’s species will not become tomorrow’s dinosaurs.
Your contribution is incalculable, and with deep respect and gratitude, I salute you.
For more information, visit www.WildlifeHeroes.org.
Excerpt reprinted with permission from WILDLIFE HEROES © 2012 by Julie Scardina and Jeff Flocken, Running Press, a member of the Perseus Book Group.
© 2012 MSNBC Interactive