What is Wildlife Conservation?

Mary McMahon

Wildlife conservation is a practice in which people attempt to protect endangered plant and animal species, along with their habitats. The goal is to ensure that nature will be around for future generations to enjoy, and to recognize the importance of wildlife and wilderness lands to humans. Many nations have government agencies dedicated to this practice, and they can help to implement policies designed to protect wildlife. There are also many independent nonprofit organizations that promote various conservation causes.

Wildlife conservation aims to protect endangered species, like elephants.
Wildlife conservation aims to protect endangered species, like elephants.

A number of different disciplines are involved in wildlife conservation. In order to practice it, people must use biology and other sciences to identify populations that are at risk, and to study those populations to learn more about their needs. Economics often becomes involved when organizations work to set land aside for the use of wildlife, with conservationists attempting to arrive at efficient land-use solutions. The field also relies heavily on education, using outreach programs to teach people about wildlife and to show people why conserving natural habitats is important.

Wildlife conservation groups often use very photogenic animals in their campaigns.
Wildlife conservation groups often use very photogenic animals in their campaigns.

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Wildlife conservationists work all over the world to identify species that are in need of assistance and to protect them. This discipline often involves capturing animals and breeding them in captivity to ensure that the population remains large and diverse while conservationists work to establish territory for the animals so that they can have a safe place in the wild. Conservation also needs to be balanced with other land uses. Many nations, for example, value forms of recreation in the wilderness, like hiking, camping, and hunting, making it difficult to set aside land specifically for the use of animals.

Wildlife conservationists may focus on helping birds of prey.
Wildlife conservationists may focus on helping birds of prey.

A wide assortment of issues intersect with this field. Establishing protected territories for animals might, for example, infringe on plans to use land for farming or housing. A wildlife park might also interfere with international borders or traditional tribal lands. Problems like pollution, deforestation, overhunting, and other environmental issues also play a role. Despite the many barriers to conservation that must be overcome, many people believe that the fight to save wildlife and natural habitat is critical.

Wildlife conservation might include limiting deforestation.
Wildlife conservation might include limiting deforestation.

Many organizations that promote wildlife conservation use famous and photogenic animals like pandas, cheetahs, gray wolves, and elephants to promote their cause. By attracting people to the issue, these organizations hope to gather support and funds to protect animals that are less well-known, such as rare and endangered birds, small mammals, and reptiles. These animals also provide a rallying point and symbol for conservation.

Hiking trails provide fun and exercise.
Hiking trails provide fun and exercise.

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Discussion Comments


What is the role of forest in wildlife conservation?


@ PelesTears- I agree when you say "some more than others". Like you I believe most zoos and wildlife parks today work towards conservation, but I think that some are still driven solely by profit.

I watched a gut-wrenching documentary about the slaughter of dolphins perpetuated by so-called conservation aquariums called "The Cove". The film was an eye-opening view into the world of catching dolphins for aquatic parks around the world.

Dolphins are basically round up into a small cove off of Japan where the best specimens are culled from the herd to be sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars to parks like Sea World. The remaining dolphins are clubbed and speared to death in a horrific show of barbarity.

The worst part is that all of the companies are fully aware of the ensuing slaughter, and their willingness to pay the high prices for dolphins helps to justify the slaughter. It really makes me mad now when I hear these companies advertise that they care about ocean habitat conservation.


Many zoos are fast becoming important parts of wildlife conservation; some more than others. At one time many zoos were seen as places that would trap animals in small cages, feed them low quality foods, and pay little notice to how they once lived in the wild. Now many zoos work to educate people about conservation issues, create animal habitats based on wild habitats, rehabilitate animal populations, and raise money for conservation causes. I think that modern zoology is even considered an environmental science.

I am a member at the Phoenix Zoo and they are constantly working on wildlife conservation and sustainability projects. I know that the zoo is associated with the American Zoological Association's (AZA) species survival plan. The zoo is working to create self-sustaining populations of species like the black footed ferret, the Mexican wolf, the thick-billed parrot, and the Chiricahua leopard frog.

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