Wildlife conservation causes need creative help!

How many native animals in your country can you name? What about narrowing it down to mammals, human’s closest ‘relatives’?

It was during my wildlife management unit in UWA that I learned more about the various species of marsupial mammals that exist in Australia!! Before this the only marsupials in Australia that I knew of were the kangaroo, wallaby, koala, wombat, possum and Tasmanian Devil.

Koala resting on a summer day

Since 2011 I found out that there are other marsupials like quokka, bettong, phascogale, bilby, quoll, dibbler, bandicoot and numbat to name a few. Some  of them are very rare, unique and endangered.

So I asked some kids here if they could name me a few native animals and they seemed to know the same ones I knew before… and I’m not Australian!! It made me realise one thing… we usually only know what we are exposed to, unless we have an interest and go searching. And that is apparent for environmental issues such as wildlife conservation. Much of these are known to us because it was presented in the media, not because we were searching. Sometimes the news we get on these issues are biased, sensationalised and highly politicised. The correct knowledge of native flora and fauna species in unique habitats and those that are endangered will help us understand how our individual and collective actions affect our environment and how we should rectify our past mistakes.

Most people around the world know about pandas, lions, tigers, elephants and orangutans.

Panda and Asian Elephant

Wildlife conservation causes seems to be centered around creatures that are cuddly cute when young and majestic or strong when mature. Popular nature shows focus on dangerous animals and adrenalin pumping encounters. Movies are made of such characters, often depicting them in ways that they do not naturally exist. My view of the Tasmanian Devil completely changed when I saw them live! My earlier perception of them was based on Taz from Looney Tunes!

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Tasmanian Devil

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Sure there are excellent popular media coverage for wildlife conservation too! Besides Animal Planet and National Geographic, one movie worthy of mention is Happy Feet, which provided a brilliant insight into issues on climate change, endangered species, human greed and its multiple effects on the environment. That was one movie that grabbed at my heartstrings, being passionate for wildlife conservation.

Now it gets me wondering… How did you find out about the wildlife species and conservation issues you know? What are the effective ways we can use the media for wildlife conservation?

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4 comments on “Wildlife conservation causes need creative help!

  1. Wow! I am embarrassed to say I am Australian and I have never heard of phascogale! or a Dibbler? what are these strange animals?

    I completely agree with you. I am only aware of the animals and issues that are presented to me obviously in the media. This is the way that I find out about thing like the proposed development of Ningaloo Reef etc.. High profile issue which reach many people!

  2. It’s interesting that you mention Happy Feet. Animated movies (such as Happy Feet, Avatar, Finding Nemo, Rio) are big business and reach a lot of people… but no proper evaluation has been done to see if they inspire or inform people about conservation! We hope they make a difference, but there’s no proof.

  3. Yes Zoe, see how powerful the media is today? You can google marsupial mammals and see for yourself how these creatures look like :) You will enjoy learning about these rare guys only found in Australia.

    Movies are a great way to reach out to all walks of life around the world. Although some are fictional we tend to remember them and believe what we saw was true and even refer back to them at some point. I hope we will see more movies with animal characters that are correctly represented with thorough research on their behaviour and habits (or at least get a biologist on the production team) to help give it a useful scientific edge.

  4. I cannot say anymore, the media is a powerful tool. The animated movies such as the Happy Feet and others had not only captured the attention of the young children but adults too. However, some of these animals and wildlife for that matter off course exist in different parts of the world.
    In Papua New Guinea, (where I came from), is very tropical and warm. Some animals (mammals) such as lions, elephants and penguines may not survive there. But my son really loved to watch the ‘Happy Feet’, Lion King and Dumbo, the baby elephant, animated movies. It was not until last semester when I first saw a live ‘little’ species penguine at the Penguine Island Conservation Centre. I sent home some photos, and it dawn on him that this mammal (penguine – as refered from the Happy feet movie) was real.
    The point is media may be a good medium to promote the messege of conservation. I agree also that movies are good medium for education, as long as proper evaluation and themes are used for inspiration.
    However, I am of the opinion that conservation of wildlife should first be real and then messege can be conveyed down through the online media.

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