Zoo InternQuest is a seven-week career exploration program for San Diego County high school juniors and seniors. Students have the unique opportunity to meet professionals working for the San Diego Zoo, Safari Park, and Institute for Conservation Research, learn about their jobs, and then blog about their experience online. Follow their adventures here on the Zoo’s website!
The struggles of elephants in the wild due to human conflict and habitat fragmentation have become well-known topics in the conservation world. While efforts to prevent the extensive poaching for tusks and the ivory trade are very important, there are other efforts in place to help out this magnificent and extremely intelligent animal. The San Diego Zoo, Safari Park, and the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research all contribute to elephant conservation by supporting conservation programs and doing public outreach of their own.
This week we met with Lead Elephant Keeper for Elephant Odyssey at the San Diego Zoo, Ron Ringer. While exploring the new facility, I was able to talk to Mr. Ringer about elephant conservation efforts occurring in the wild as well as within San Diego Zoo Global. He noted that poaching is still occurring heavily, with approximately 40,000 elephants being killed per year either to sell their ivory, or because of human conflict. He mentioned a program supported by SDZG− called Elephants Without Borders− which really caught my attention. Elephants Without Borders (EWB) is a charitable organization committed to wildlife and natural resource conservation. Specifically with elephants, EWB maps out their migration routes, tracks them, works with local villagers, and communicates with the public.
Elephants in the wild cover a lot of ground. Therefore, being able to track their movements and patterns is essential for their protection. This will yield information on whether they pass through national parks, international boundaries, or changing environments. From an agricultural perspective, elephants consume vast amounts of food because of their immense size. Unfortunately, due to do habitat fragmentation, elephants are coming in contact with local villages. If this occurs, elephant herds might destroy the land and eat all of the crops growing there. The disgruntled villagers might become hostile toward the elephants, often hunting and killing them. EWB is trying to create protected routes for the elephants and protected areas for farmers to avoid elephant and human contact. Thanks to the collaboration between Elephants Without Borders and San Diego Zoo Global, not only is new research and fieldwork being done, but also public education as well.
By just being at the San Diego Zoo, guests can learn about elephant conservation. Mr. Ringer acknowledged that a huge part of his job is communication and interaction with the public to foster an appreciation for elephants. If people ever inquire about the Zoo’s efforts with elephant conservation, he is quick to tell them about EWB, and even another special story about seven orphaned elephants that came to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. This herd of elephants was going to be culled in Swaziland, however, these elephants were saved and brought to the United States. If people ask what they can do to help, Mr. Ringer responds with suggestions such as never buying items made of ivory, trying to do background checks and research on items before you buy them, and donating to elephant conservation efforts.
Thanks to Mr. Ringer and his colleagues, San Diego Zoo Global, and Elephants Without Borders, elephants have a chance to live safely and peacefully in the wild. Not only are these groups helping elephants’ lives, but they are helping human lives as well. For more information about Elephants Without Borders, visit the Zoo’s website: http://blogs.sandiegozoo.org/tag/elephants-without-borders/.
Abby, Conservation Team
Week five, Winter Session 2013