Without A Shadow Of A Doubt

Lindsay’s Conservation And Education Mission

Posted on: December 16th, 2020

Sheltering-in-Place Blog Entry #34

“In honor of Shadow, our Great Gray Owl Ambassador, who inspired awe and excitement
in everyone who met her over her 20+ years at Lindsay.”

A Great Gray Owl blending in with her environment. Photo by Jeff Torquemada and Wendy Sparks.

A Great Gray Owl (Strix nebulosa) sits quietly on a forest branch, practically invisible to the untrained eye. She blends perfectly with its surroundings as she scans the ground below. Across its range, this largest species of owl evokes feelings expressed in the names that locals give them, from its scientific name “nebulosa” or like a cloud or hazy, to Phantom of the North, cinereous owl, spectral owl, Lapland owl, spruce owl, bearded owl, and sooty owl, and others around the world. She is magnificent and perfectly adapted to her role as a top predator in her particular ecological niche, but it is a niche that continues to shrink. Unlogged pine forests constitute the preferred breeding habitats for this species. While there still exist large swaths of these forests in the US and Eurasia’s boreal regions, their management for logging products and the use of rodenticides across its range continues to impact their future. Without an understanding of the needs of owls and the other species that connect to them within the ecosystem, the goal of preserving and protecting them becomes challenging and uncertain. Globally considered a “species of least concern” (its world population is characterized as stable), the Great Gray Owl is listed as an endangered species in California, with between 100 and 200 breeding pairs.

Global distribution of the Great Gray Owl. Notice the small distribution in California.

The conservation of California wildlife species like the Great Gray Owl and their habitats is an essential part of Lindsay’s identity. Most of our conservation-related activities have focused on educating people about particular species and their needs. We do this by using our animal ambassadors as points of contact and inspiration; crafting outreach activities such as public talks and presentations; and interacting with people via our wildlife hospital and through our website. However, knowledge alone is not enough to protect species and their habitats. The current management and stewardship of our natural ecosystems for resident native species requires an enlightened and knowledgeable society with a broad understanding and adherence to environmental principles, philosophies, and the regulations these engender. This understanding would lead to the protection and sustainable management of natural areas in perpetuity. I’m confident you would agree that we are not yet close to being there in this aspect of our environmental valuation.

The last few months have shaken our society’s foundations in many ways. The threat and impact of a pandemic driven by a novel virus — a massive challenge for the scientific and medical community to respond to effectively — has brought to the surface many aspects of our general management of ecosystems and natural areas, on a global scale down to a local level. Globally, we can put some of the blame for the emergence of novel pathogens and the diseases and illnesses they engender in human and animal populations to our insatiable hunger for more and more products from nature, such as timber, soil, and water. Widespread consumerism and the disparities in the access to resources between rich and poor sectors of society puts us at odds with a balance in nature on which our civilization depends. Clean air, stable fertile soils, managed ecosystems for products and wildlife, clean water, and sustainable harvests of ocean fisheries are the foundation of ecosystem services for a growing human population. And despite having several world-class examples of sustainable human population and ecosystem management available worldwide, we have not found an effective way to replicate and adapt these successful models to other nations and regions. Examples of holistic natural and human management practices (regenerative development) can be found in several projects in Costa Rica, Mozambique, Guatemala, and other countries (see links below in Further Reading for a world-view of sustainability models, click here).

Plant diversity in the California Floristic Province (CPF). Graphic from bioone.org.

We live in California’s East Bay, part of the San Francisco Bay area, a region of extraordinary beauty and ecological diversity (we’re part of the California Floristic Region, one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots ). Our area has a growing population that topped 2.5 million people in 2010 and is likely to reach 3 million. With one of the most rapidly growing populations in the San Francisco Bay, the region exerts increased pressure on its natural resources and wildlife. What can we do at Lindsay to effectively promote more sustainable management of our growth, our use of natural resources, and our pursuit of a balanced and regenerative approach to our quality of life, which is intimately tied to the quality of our natural environment?

Lindsay is known in the East Bay region for providing more than six decades of education about wildlife and our relationship to it. We run a well-known wildlife hospital that is the go-to place for injured or orphaned wildlife. We also run a small but well-visited museum that attracted close to 100,000 people annually before the pandemic. We care for a small but mighty collection of animal ambassadors that have thrilled and educated our audiences throughout our history. And we run education and outreach programs about wildlife, ecosystems, and nature across the region and online. But, is all this enough to achieve effective conservation action? What else can we do to make our home, our region, and beyond, an example of a sustainable society where people and wildlife coexist in balance while supporting a thriving and prosperous community?  How can we focus on the quality of life rather than on unlimited growth and consumerism?

These pandemic months have made us think more in-depth about these questions and inspired us to articulate a plan for a genuine expansion of our conservation mission across the region. Here are some brief examples of our vision for conservation and what we should expect to take shape in the months and years to come. We will expand on these topics in future essays.

State of the art wildlife rehabilitation at Lindsay.

Research and Data in service for conservation. GIS, hospital, and education

◦   Research activities based on our extensive geographical and species-rich medical database of wildlife injuries and threats.

◦   Use of wildlife hospital data to develop targeted outreach programs in communities where wildlife issues are prevailing.

◦   Publication of best practices, protocols, and methods for wildlife medicine.

◦   Expansion of our online resources to include scientific and lay literature about sustainability and regenerative development.

◦   Expansion of our wildlife care to include a teaching wildlife hospital.

Habitat extensions with native plant gardening. California Native Plant Society.

Partnerships for broader impact

◦      Cultivate the network of wildlife rehabilitation facilities and organizations in the East Bay.

◦      Expansion of our conservation work as a zoo.

◦      Habitat extension through native plant gardening.

◦      Best practices at the home level to improve and support populations of native birds, insects, and other wildlife.

 

Expansion of rehabilitation facilities in regional communities

◦      Includes modern aviaries and rehabilitation enclosures in local communities.

◦      Satellite interpretive centers, customized culturally and environmentally to each community.

 

Eagle Eyrie under construction at Lindsay.

Redesign and improvement of our facilities to provide excellence in service and support of our mission

◦    Redesign of our animal care facilities to the highest standards. Seek zoo associations’ certifications.

◦     Redesign and build outstanding and transformative museum experiences for the public, indoors, and outdoors.

 

 

Integrated Pest Management is a better way to deal with common pests. Entomologytoday.org

Advocacy for better environmental management

◦    Partnering with local vendors to reduce the use of toxic chemicals and dangerous pest management methods.

◦    Support and promote sound environmental practices and projects (Save Mount Diablo; wildlife corridors; banning of dangerous pesticides and herbicides).

 

Infographics by viablefuturescenter.org.

Strong promotion and implementation of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusivity practices at all levels of our organization

◦     Diversifying our board of directors, staff, volunteer base, and internships.

◦     Implementing strategies for increasing access to our programs for underserved communities.

 

In the coming months, we will focus on these and other ideas and initiatives to prepare for the eventual return to normalcy after this year of incredible stress and trauma. We couldn’t do this work, think about these topics, and continue to advance our organization’s future without your support. You have shown us that Lindsay matters to you, and we will not disappoint you. We will continue to strive to make a difference locally, regionally, and beyond.

We find inspiration in the daily messages we receive from you, in our daily contacts with our animal ambassadors, and in the continued focus on improving our practices and serving people and wildlife.

Shadow, a wonderful and remembered animal ambassador.

Carlos L. de la Rosa
Executive Director

 

 

 

 

 

FURTHER READING

–   Great Gray owl population status and conservation in California.

–   An excellent report on the Great Gray Owls.

–   The Owl Pages

–   The Regenerative Development Concept.

–   Sustainable Cities around the world.

–   Nature and human restoration in Mozambique.

–   Long-term sustainable development model of the Guanacaste Conservation Area, Costa Rica.

–   An example of holistic development in rural Mayan communities in Guatemala.