Attending the Wildlife Conservation Network Expo

Faraz

Attending the Wildlife Conservation Network Expo

This year, I had the opportunity to attend the Wildlife Conservation Network (WCN) fall expo in San Francisco, CA from October 10-17. I was invited as a guest of Dr. James G Sanderson, founder, and Director of the Small Wild Cat Conservation Foundation (SWCCF), a partner organization of the WCN. I met Jim about five years ago when he was in Bhutan to conduct a camera trap workshop, and since then, he has been a friend, a mentor and a strong force in my career. Since 2014, I have been working on a few small projects on small wild cats in Bhutan and currently, I study Pallas's cat (besides tigers), a small fluffy wildcat of the alpine steppes. Basically, I was there at the Expo to talk about my project, fundraise and to learn.

We had exciting and helpful training workshops on behavior change, negotiation skills, using social media as a medium of engaging people, and also had practical experiences in fundraising. The main event-the expo comprised of exhibitions, presentations, and souvenir sales. About 1200 people attended, and I had the chance to speak to a handful of them and tell them about Bhutan, and the conservation needs of small wildcats. Over the few days, I made new friends and also met many inspiring and incredible scientists and conservationists who are working tirelessly to conserve some of the globally threatened species like the lions, elephants, cranes, wild dogs, cheetah, cotton-top tamarins, okapi, Andean cat, snow leopards, and sharks.  Seventeen WCN partners and representatives from the elephant and the lion recovery funds were in attendance. We also had a few guest speakers. They all come together at the expo to share their stories of success, struggles, and future plans with people who are passionate about supporting these grass-root level conservation projects. The WCN expo was all about genuine passion, protecting wildlife, and ensuring a sustainable livelihood for communities that share space with the animals.

From all the meeting and talking to people, there appears to be a slight disconnect between science and conservation; conservationists increasingly feel that scientists don't engage enough in reducing threats to wildlife. In this difficult age, I think science and conservation must complement each other to achieve the ultimate goal which is saving species.  Overall, it was a good break from all the science back in school and an excellent exposure to global conservation.

Tashi Dhendup, MS Candidate

Feature Image - The workshop participants

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Image 1 - With Dr. Rodney Jackson-a conservation hero. He is a world-renowned snow leopard expert and is the founder-director of the Snow Leopard Conservancy. He is a 1981 Rolex Awardee and a four-time finalist for the Indianapolis Prize.

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Image 2 - The Small Wild Cat Conservation Foundation booth. Dr. Jim Sanderson is seen in the picture talking to a small cat enthusiast.