Jealous of Conservation Biologists? Postcard from South Africa

As I reflect on recent trips to a game lodge and Kruger National Park, and wildlife aspects of gold mining or renewable projects, I realize that I feel jealous of conservation biologists I work with. Are you jealous too? What do you think makes a good conservation biologist?

A few weeks ago, I was traveling with my associates to the Kumtor Gold Mine to assist with a number of projects. This includes improving Kumtor’s wildlife monitoring capacity as part of the mine’s efforts to pursue Cyanide Code certification.

I enjoy site visits and field work. On each occasion I visited Kumtor’s high altitude mine site (4,000 mabs), for example, I have been fortunate to see several to several dozen Marco Polo (argali) sheep who roam the area. In fact, the number of wildlife has been on an increase since the mine started operating. And I had a chance to meet and work with impressive conservation biologists (and I am using this title broadly) who serve in academia, consulting, government agencies, and NGOs. (See also a previous blog entry: Biodiversity Management Strategy & Plan for Gold Mine)

On my last trip to Kumtor a few weeks ago, we observed wolves trying to catch Marco Polo sheep in the distance. To me, the scene seemed worthy of a National Geographic film shoot, although we had to continue with our work and did not see the ending of that chase.

More recently, while visiting the Kruger National Park and a neighboring private game lodge, I found myself also jealous of our ranger/guide, with training in conservation biology. While watching in awe leopard mom and cubs feed on an impala, I thought that it may be hard to beat the ranger’s “another day in the office”…

So what makes a good conservation biologist? Knowing your black from white rhinos? Promoting or opposing project developments? Interpreting long lists of species with/out conservation status within a wider geographic and socioeconomic landscape to answer the “so what” question related to such developments? Or being able to distill and communicate that information to others? Or what about using some of these elements to engage others and achieve positive conservation outcomes?

Are you jealous of conservation biologists too?

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