Wildlife summit gives reasons to be cheerful about conservation | University of Oxford
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New Zealand's Takahe bird is just one of the endangered species success stories being shared as part of the global Conservation Optimism movement.The viral campaign reminds people of the positive strides being made in the field. After three record breeding seasons the Takahe has gone from the brink of extinction to a population of over 300. Image credit: Shutterstock

Wildlife summit gives reasons to be cheerful about conservation

An international wildlife event, organised by the University of Oxford and partners, has highlighted the wide progress being made in conservation.

During a two-day run, more than 250 people attended the Conservation Optimism Summit in London, highlighting environmental success stories from around the world. Hundreds more attended the linked public event at ZSL London Zoo on Earth Day, as well as sister events in cities around the world, including Washington, Cambridge, Hong Kong and Colombia.

Organised as a partnership between the Interdisciplinary Centre for Conservation Science at the University of Oxford, ZSL (Zoological Society of London) and the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, the Conservation Optimism Summit brought together environmentalists from all over the world, from sectors including government, NGOs, industry and academia.

The number of people in attendance shows how much people want to celebrate the positive efforts being made to protect the environment and even better, work together to make a difference in the future.

Professor EJ Milner-Gulland, Tasso Laventis Professor of Biodiversity in Oxford’s Department of Zoology.

The summit began with two days of professional workshops at Dulwich College London and culminated on Earth Day (Saturday 22 April 2017), with a public event at ZSL London Zoo, Intended to steer the conversation away from doom and gloom and to change general perceptions about the difference that conservation can make. The interactive event at ZSL London Zoo featured activities for all ages, such as crafts, debates and art installations. Tapping into the public appetite for good news, a series of workshops, discussions and arts events helped to bring the world’s major conservation challenges to life and to highlight their significance to people's everyday lives.

Championed by high profile advocates including chef, television personality and environmental campaigner, Hugh-Fearnley-Whittingstall, the event celebrated the trail-blazing efforts of individuals and organisations working to protect wildlife and the natural world. In some cases, such as the saiga antelope and echo parakeet, conservationists have even brought species back from the brink of extinction. Initiatives highlighted included the tracking of Galapagos tortoise migrations and the introduction of dedicated tapir-bridges to protect the species from road traffic accidents in Costa Rica.

Professor EJ Milner-Gulland, the Oxford University scientist who devised the event, said: ‘We are thrilled with the response to the summit. There’s a lot of bad news out there that gives the impression that the field is all doom and gloom, or that the situation is hopeless. But the number of people who turned out and the positive energy at the Summit just shows how much people want to celebrate the positive efforts being made to protect the environment and even better, work together to make a difference in the future.’

In addition to raising general awareness of the positive difference that conservation can make, the summit highlighted how individuals can make small changes in their everyday lives to take more environmental responsibility. From getting involved with the UK’s “citizen science” volunteer programmes, to recycling and swapping single-use plastic water bottles for refillable ones, everyone can make a positive difference to the natural world.

Check out our interview with Professor EJ Milner Gulland, to learn more about how Conservation Optimism is working to change the way in which conservation is reported and build positive dialogue around environmental issues.