WILDLIFE WAR­RIORS

Meet the peo­ple fight­ing wildlife crime and help­ing an­i­mals in need through res­cue, re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion and re­search

How It Works - - ENVIRONMENT - Words by Char­lie Evans

Lone­some Ge­orge was thought to be over 100 years old. The gi­ant tor­toise sub­species (Ch­elonoidis ni­gra abing­doni) was known as an ‘endling’ – the last known in­di­vid­ual of a species. He lived his life on the small is­land of Pinta, one of the Galá­pa­gos Is­lands off the coast of Ecuador, but his species was hunted to the point of ex­tinc­tion.

Af­ter sci­en­tists first dis­cov­ered him, they had hoped they would find an­other. In­stead, they soon learned that the veg­e­ta­tion that Ge­orge once feasted upon was now be­ing de­stroyed by hoards of feral goats that had been re­leased there by hu­mans who wanted some­thing to hunt. But there was no sign of an­other tor­toise like Ge­orge. With no off­spring, when he died in 2012 the species be­came ex­tinct.

Lone­some Ge­orge’s story is heart­break­ing, but it is not unique. The last decade has seen the ex­tinc­tion of so many crea­tures: the Ja­panese river ot­ter, Mala­gasy hip­popota­mus, east­ern cougar, Christ­mas Is­land pip­istrelle. Other species are hurtling to­wards a sim­i­lar fate, tee­ter­ing on the brink of ex­tinc­tion, like the Ili pika, Dar­win’s fox and the Bornean orang­utan.

From climate change, toxic pol­lu­tants and nat­u­ral dis­as­ters to mass de­for­esta­tion, il­le­gal trap­ping, and poach­ing, these species are suf­fer­ing at the hands of hu­mans. While des­per­ate at­tempts are be­ing made to keep these an­i­mals in cap­tiv­ity with the hopes of rein­tro­duc­ing pop­u­la­tions into the wild, it is seem­ingly too lit­tle too late. The real an­swers to sav­ing the planet’s wildlife is pre­vent­ing a species from de­clin­ing to such dan­ger­ously low num­bers through ed­u­ca­tion and re­search, fo­cus­ing on fight­ing wildlife crime like il­le­gal poach­ing for the trade of ex­otic pets and head­ing out into the bush to save an­i­mals bat­tling dis­ease and life-threat­en­ing wounds.

One or­gan­i­sa­tion that works tire­lessly to pre­serve an­i­mals is the Li­longwe Wildlife Trust based in Malawi, a coun­try home to about 192 mam­mal species, in­clud­ing the crit­i­cally en­dan­gered south-cen­tral black rhino and the en­dan­gered African wild dog. Malawi is also south­ern Africa’s main tran­sit hub for il­licit wildlife prod­ucts like ele­phant ivory, an­i­mals for sale in the il­le­gal pet trade and bush­meat.

Their cen­tre opened its doors in 2008 as Malawi’s only an­i­mal res­cue and re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion fa­cil­ity, and it is the only sanc­tu­ary in the world to have re­ceived all three ac­cred­i­ta­tions from the Born Free PAW scheme, GFAS (Global Fed­er­a­tion of An­i­mal Sanc­tu­ar­ies) and PASA (Pan African Sanc­tu­ary Al­liance). Since then, Li­longwe Wildlife Trust has de­vel­oped into a world-renowned and award-win­ning con­ser­va­tion or­gan­i­sa­tion.

We meet some of the he­roes be­hind these con­ser­va­tion ef­forts, who are work­ing to pro­tect and pre­serve the wildlife of Malawi and striv­ing to­wards the goal of sav­ing ev­ery wild an­i­mal in the coun­try from suf­fer­ing.

“The last decade has seen the ex­tinc­tion of many crea­tures. Oth­ers are tee­ter­ing on the brink”

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