The WWF (World Wildlife Fund) does an amazing job of making us all aware of the plight of many of the world's endangered species. When we think of endangered species, we usually think of tigers, giant pandas, rhinos, polar bears, whales, elephants, marine turtles, and great apes. Why? Because they get the most press. Many of these animals are stock exhibits in public zoos and aquariums, and we've been exposed to them from childhood. We know what they are... we think their babies are cute... and we care about them. It's easy to pull our heart strings and make us empty our pockets into a donation tin for their sake.
But what about other species? What about plants, insects, reptiles and fish? They're on the lists too, but conservation efforts tend to come from special interest groups rather than the public at large. Face it, there aren't that many people in the world that really care about the plight of the Pygmy Hog Sucking Louse of India. Most people have never even heard of it. But it's on the list!
We, as fish hobbyists, have a particular advantage when it comes to helping with species conservation. Most freshwater fish are comparatively easy to care for in captivity (as opposed to a tiger, for example), and the fish are relatively easy to get from their native waters to our tanks via the tropical fish trade and our social connections with scientists that collect in the field. We also tend to band together in clubs and associations, readily trade fish and information with one another, and actively recruit other hobbyists to participate in conservation efforts. Out of all this was born the C.A.R.E.S. Preservation Program; the brain-child of noted aquarist Claudia Dickinson. The C.A.R.E.S. program has brought structure to the conservation efforts of hobbyists and scientists all over the world.
There is not a continent on earth whose waters and fishes have not been affected by the devastation and destruction caused from deforestation, pollution, agrochemical run-off, overfishing, global warming, and political unrest, all to the great misfortune of those fishes that remain in their natural habitats. As these tragedies to earth are occurring more rapidly than even the most paramount attempts at intervention can match, captive breeding of species at risk, both within the country of origin and outside of the country of origin, has become the quintessential answer for both short term and long term preservation goals.
Through the sovereign work of dedicated scientists, such as conservation champion Dr. Paul V. Loiselle, the hobbyist now plays a critical role in the favorable outlook of our fishes. If each one of us is to dedicate at least one existing aquarium, or set up one new aquarium, with the intent of devoting that aquarium space to a species at risk, the aquarium hobby as a whole has the opportunity to make a major impact in ensuring a positive future for these fishes. The C.A.R.E.S. Preservation Program is a universal means by which, together, we can achieve this goal of success. (quoted from C.A.R.E.S. Website)
Founded in 2004, the C.A.R.E.S. (Conservation, Awareness, Recognition, Encouragement, and Support) Preservation Program is based on the critical and timely significance of Conservation, our Awareness as hobbyists of the issues involved, and the public Recognition of members, offering Encouragement and Support for those who take part in playing a vital role in ensuring a positive future for species at risk. The purpose of the C.A.R.E.S. Preservation Program is to encourage hobbyists worldwide to devote tank space to one or more species at risk, while forming an information network between aquarists, scientists, and conservationists. (quoted from C.A.R.E.S. Website | Introduction)
For more information on the C.A.R.E.S. program, visit the C.A.R.E.S. Website
See how one school has become the C.A.R.E.S. for Education Flagship with its Aqua Havens CARES program. This program has been so successful, the Washington Post ran an article about it!
Do you have a spare tank you can dedicate to an endangered species? What are you waiting for?
Originally published on the AfricanCichlids.Net website.