When most people think of wildlife conservation, they may imagine a khaki-clad Indiana Jones figure tromping through rainforests or scouring grasslands in safari jeeps, hoping for rare glimpses of endangered animals. These are the images presented to us on television by great wildlife advocates such as Sir David Attenborough, Steve Irwin and Jeremy Wade. While the work that these titans of wildlife education have put forward is invaluable, it is only one part of a larger conservation education effort.
As a part of that larger effort, many zoological facilities host a wide range of conservationists throughout the year. Safari West, which is located just an hour north of WCN’s San Francisco offices in Santa Rosa, California, is one of those places. At Safari West, visitors can go out for an authentic safari with a knowledgeable guide and take part in overnight stays in one of 30 luxury tents from South Africa. Because of its overnight guests, Safari West has recognized that they have a special opportunity to reach the public with conservation messages.
Throughout the year, a variety of conservationists are invited to speak to Safari West’s guests in the evening. Topics range from animal behavior to the conservation of endangered species and everything in between. These talks are open to all overnight guests, as well as any interested staff members. Guides regularly attend and often integrate the information that they hear into their safaris. This has a trickle-down effect, and the details shared on one particular evening may end up being repeated to hundreds of visitors.
Safari West provides speakers with both a platform to share their mission with large numbers of people and a donation to their organization. Safari West has contributed more than $126,000 in the last four years and is booking speakers more frequently with each passing year. Because of the increased frequency of these bookings, there is now a calendar on the website to alert guests of upcoming talks with a link to each organization’s website on that calendar.
Presenters enjoy speaking for these audiences, and there are many who return year after year. Recurring speakers include WCN Partners Dr. Rodney Jackson of the Snow Leopard Conservancy and Dr. Laurie Marker of the Cheetah Conservation Fund. Both Rodney and Laurie are also regularly seen as speakers at the Wildlife Conservation Expo. Safari West guests and staff have also enjoyed visits from a variety of conservationists from smaller organizations, many of which can be found at the tables around the WCN Expo.
In addition to the conservationists who are fighting to protect animals on the other side of the world, there are also speakers featured who strive to protect the local Bay Area wildlife. This helps foster an interest in local conservation, and many of the featured animals are often seen at Safari West, which is dedicated to preserving its 400 acres of land in the Mayacamas Mountain range.
Working with and supporting the Wildlife Conservation Network has allowed Safari West to expand its horizons with new speakers and to maintain a solid network of experts and enthusiasts to turn to for information. The collaboration of zoos and educators is the future of conservation, and Safari West is honored to be a part of this alliance.
– Contributed by Lynette Lyon, Danny Cusimano and Aimee Somermeier of the Safari West Conservation Team