Despite the fact that human well-being is intrinsically linked to the natural world, our planet is still very much an unexplored place, and our knowledge of the world’s threatened species and habitats is often inadequate for effective conservation action.
In 2008, a team of leading scientists and conservationists began to tackle this problem by creating Global Wildlife Conservation (GWC), with the aim of documenting and protecting our planet’s biodiversity.
GWC is founded on the principle that science-based decisions are crucial for the long-term protection of the world’s species and habitats. In collaboration with conservation organisations, universities, museums, government agencies, and especially local experts and organisations, GWC initiates conservation action in the most biologically important and threatened areas on the planet. The organisation’s scientists endeavor to use novel and innovative strategies to identify those habitats and species most in need of conservation.
“GWC and partners are actively pursuing wildlife and ecosystem conservation based upon sound science and collaborative efforts, with the knowledge that biodiversity conservation is fundamental to maintaining life on this planet, including humanity.” Wes Sechrest, Ph.D. Chief Scientist and CEO.
Rediscovering lost species
One of GWC’s inaugural missions was to conduct biodiversity surveys and identify priority sites for conservation in Southeast Asia, starting with southwest Cambodia, a biologically rich but poorly documented region. The Cambodia expedition produced many encouraging results, including the rediscovery of a population of hog deer long thought lost – one of only two populations in the whole of Southeast Asia – and the first records of the hairy-nosed otter – the world’s rarest otter – for the area. More recently, GWC has helped ARKive to develop and authenticate some of our species profiles.
One of GWC’s largest undertakings to date has been ‘The Search for Lost Amphibians’ campaign in collaboration with the IUCN/SSC Amphibian Specialist Group and Conservation International. Whilst searching across Africa, Latin America and Asia for 100 amphibian species deemed ‘lost’ due to their lack of recent sightings, GWC has so far helped rediscover three species and document three more entirely new species, including a possible new type of beaked toad now known as the Simpsons toad due to its startling resemblance to the villainous character Mr. Burns from the television series.
Interview with Wes Sechrest, Chief Scientist and founder of Global Wildlife Conservation
What is your background, and what motivated you to create GWC?
I am a conservation biologist by training, with an emphasis on combining academic research and applied conservation in endangered species and habitat conservation. My focus has been on identifying global priorities for biodiversity conservation and implementing crucial field work to promote on-the-ground conservation efforts. I founded GWC to support the incredible efforts of the best and brightest minds in conservation. My colleagues and I have formed a dynamic organisation that is strategically and operationally based upon the work of many influential past and present field scientists and conservationists. The core mission of biodiversity conservation is fundamental to all of our projects, with a strong emphasis on partnering with like-minded individuals and institutions across the world. GWC is a vehicle for action, a think tank that acts to conserve the most endangered species and ecosystems.
What have been GWC’s most important and rewarding findings so far?
GWC’s most important and rewarding finding is that there has been a massive gap in global conservation efforts, which GWC and partners have begun to fill. This entails promoting exploration, research, and on-the-ground conservation efforts with local institutions. We have ignited a global effort, strongly partnered with experts and institutions in critical countries such as India, Colombia, Sri Lanka, Guatemala, and Cambodia, among others. GWC helps provide a launching platform to combine global efforts with field-based action, amplifying and expanding the possibilities in biodiversity conservation.
What projects is GWC planning now?
We have a suite of new conservation projects coming online, including initiatives in Central and South America to help protect the last remaining tracts of unique cloud forest. We are also partnering on a novel initiative to tackle conservation in the Caribbean, starting with the incredibly diverse Massif de la Hotte in Haiti. Additionally, the search for both ‘lost’ and new species continues, particularly in the tropics, where there remains much to discover and more to conserve. We are continuing the support of individuals and institutions that share GWC’s mission and values, which has helped to amplify conservation efforts in several countries over the last few years.
What role do you think films and photos have in promoting conservation?
Conservationists and scientists often have trouble communicating what they discover and see in the field, and images and film can go a long ways towards bringing increased knowledge to those who have not experienced time in a cloud forest, desert, or coral reef. To save species, we need to understand their habitats, behaviors, and threats. Without communication efforts, the decline of species can be nearly invisible to people, and making these potential losses visible is important to prevent long-term consequences to humanity and the planet. I have been thoroughly impressed by the efforts of ARKive in promoting and spreading conservation knowledge to people around the world.
Find out more about Global Wildlife Conservation (GWC).
Alex Royan, ARKive Species Text Author