It is a common misconception that wildlife management and conservationists have completely homogeneous roles. A wildlife management officer typically will be on the ground dealing directly with threats, for example a ranger who patrols a national park in Tanzania, he acts as a deterrent for poachers whose ultimate goal is the murder of elephants and theft of their eye wateringly valuable ivory tusks. Conservation biology is a multidisciplinary science with two main goals:
- Developing practical solutions to the very real threat of extinction for many species.
- Evaluating human impacts on biological diversity.
Conservation biology is a valuable strand of wildlife management and the name was first introduced in 1978 by Michael Soule. E. O. Wilson describes Conservation Biology as a “discipline with a deadline”.
Reasons for becoming a Conservation Biologist
The WWF Living Planet report from last year stated that we have now entered a new geological epoch called the Anthropocene, the actions and space taken up by humans are pushing life towards the 6th mass extinction event at an alarming rate. Species populations of vertebrates decreased in abundance by 58% between 1970 and 2012, with the most common threat being the loss of habitat (based on data from 14,152 populations of 3,706 species around the world). With an annual decline of 2% it is a sobering thought when you imagine what the world will look like in 2030.
However, in order to not finish this post on such a depressing note some positives I’ve taken from the report are that the US & China have banned the domestic ivory trade and CO2 emissions have stabilised over the last two years. A small comfort, however it is undeniable that conservation biologists are needed more now than ever before to combat all these threats and deliver more solutions!