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Humans have a long history of killing off animal populations. Our current tools (guns, aircraft, traps) make over-hunting easy. Even prior to modernity, people pushed the earth’s creatures into extinction; from–possibly–the mammoth, to the dodo bird, to the passenger pigeon, our species has hunted, trapped, eaten, and simply swept away entire species. Observing humanity’s relationship to animals, you may be tempted to see people as cold killers, and little more.
The recent uproar over Cecil the Lion’s death, though, is a reminder that people–at least some of them–do care. These dedicated stewards of the earth seek a harmonious, respectful relationship between humans and animals. The big question for many of these people, many of whom live far from the hunting grounds, is what can I do? Saving endangered species is a tall order. With dedication, though, you will make a difference. Here are a few options for helping prevent poaching.
Donate to Wildlife Organizations.
When you want the job done right, your best option is often to pay the experts to do it for you. Groups like the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), The International Fund for Animal Welfare, and the International Rhino Foundation, among countless others, do excellent and important work in wildlife conservation. If you have a specific animal you’re interested in helping protect, find a group dedicated to its preservation and give them some money. They often need it.
If you want a more hands-on experience but don’t have the credentials necessary to work in the field, consider volunteering. Many organizations have volunteer programs and would be thrilled to have another compassionate person lending a hand. Find an organization with a local chapter and email or call them. You might end up phone-banking, providing social media outreach, or even get to interact with one of the animals you’re championing. The International Anti-poaching Foundation’s site has many ideas about how to give some of your time.
Spread the Word
People can’t care about issues they don’t know about. Educate yourself, speak with friends and family, and make resources available to anyone who shows interest. Start a blog, volunteer for social media outreach for a local group, or start a club.
Make sure you get your facts straight. People won’t listen to you if they think you’re not credible. The WWF has lots of educational and easy-to-use fact sheets on their site. Read up, organize your thoughts, and get the message out there!
Remember to Go Beyond Charismatic Creatures
This can be a controversial topic among conservationists. Lovable animals like lions, rhinos, etc. get a lot of attention (and donations) from the public, while their less cuddly brethren–such as the Braken Bat Cave Meshweaver spider–are ignored. People who want to help prevent species-loss need to be aware of the varieties of endangered animals out there. (As a counterpoint, research does indicate that focusing on charismatic creatures can help retain populations of non-charismatics as well.)