It’s Thanksgiving Day here in the United States. It’s a wonderful time of year when families and friends gather to be thankful for their good fortune.
I like to think broadly and give thanks also for the wonderful biodiversity of life on Earth. I was raised in Africa and have led tours there and many times to the Amazon and to the Galapagos Islands. The sheer variety of life never fails to astonish and inspire me and those with whom I travelled. So yes, I’m grateful for that richness of species and for having been fortunate enough to experience it firsthand. I fervently wish that others could also have those firsthand experiences – and to perhaps share my wonderment and passion for our living world.
But what about species themselves? What do they have to be grateful for? Some species have more to be grateful for than others.
- The tiger – has reason to be grateful. A consortium of governments endorsed a UNEP plan to save the species from extinction.
- Orangutan – A Greenpeace viral video that helped change Nestle’s palm oil policy won a viral video award for highlighting the connection between everyday products (in this case the Kit Kat candybar) and deforestation of orangutan habitat for palm oil plantations.
- Sharks – have reason to be grateful. Experts have demanded better protection for sharks, although formal international protection is still lacking http://ow.ly/3e3yc
- La Loma tree frog – has reason to be grateful. On the brink of extinction it has been successfully bred in captivity for the first time.
- New frog species – have reason to be grateful. Three new species of frog were found in Colombia, leading to the possibility their habitat may receive better protection.
- Ridley’s leaf-nosed bat – has reason to be grateful. The rare bat was discovered in fragment of forest during a biodiversity survey in West Sumatra, Indonesia. Surrounded by palm oil plantations the discovery emphasizes the effectiveness of conservation of small forest fragments.
- Baby zebra and wildebeest – This video of a helpful hippo rescuing helpless baby animals from the Mara river highlights the wonder of the annual great migration across the Serengeti and publicized goverment plans to build a road through it.
So there is good news and reason for some species to be grateful. But other species have not been lucky and have little reason to be grateful.
- Amazon species – According to a report from Colombia, “lack of adequate research and up-to-date data… is hampering efforts to formulate government policy to conserve the country’s rainforests” http://ow.ly/35TB9
- Serengeti species – Tanazania government plans to build a road straight through one of the last remaining African wildernesses remain on course, despite uproar and outrage from the world’s conservation community http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/31/world/africa/31serengeti.html
- Blue fin tuna – When NOAA officials recommended a reduction in catch of this fast dwindling fish, government officials accused them of “selling out” US fishermen http://ow.ly/3eeQM
- US wild birds – Scientists have recorded the highest rate of beak abnormalities ever in US species. The cause is still unknown. http://ow.ly/36y2L
So in this time of Thanksgiving, let us remember that many of the world’s species have little to be grateful for. But also let us remember that we must be grateful for the hard work and diligence of scientist, conservationists and public servants who are striving to raise awareness about the plight of the world’s species. Let us give thanks too that many people from all walks of life share our passion and joy in life’s beauty and wonder. And together let us be thankful that people are concerned, writing and communicating about the threat to biodiversity and let us be thankful that there is hope for Earth’s species.