Question: What's that 5000-pound vegetarian doing frolicking in my swamp grass? Answer: Surviving.
The vegetarian in question is not Kirstie Alley, it's the greater one-horned rhinocerous: a solitary creature, often called a unicorn, which was pushed to near extinction but has been on the rebound as of late. Today the rhino is not so lonely, thanks in part to the actions of Dr. Eric Dinerstein, chief scientist from the World Wildlife Fund.
Dinerstein will be explaining the plight of the rhino in a talk titled "The Return of the Unicorns" (the title of his book). Among the most important tactics to help protect the endangered species, after scientific research and habitat planning and management, are public awareness campaigns and coalitions between governments and conservation groups. Fighting development projects that infringe on species habitats and offering residents alternatives to poaching, such as eco-tourism, have proved to be effective conservation strategies, Dinerstein says.
"All is not lost," he says. "There are examples of bringing back species. We can dispel the myth that we can't do conservation in developing countries."
The greater one-horned rhinocerous is a case in point. In the 1960s the population had dwindled to less than 100. Today, through relocation efforts and conservation strides, there are now more than 600 living in Nepal and Northern India.
Miami Metrozoo's Zoological Society of Florida has become one of the more proactive organizations in the nation, partnering with the WWF to save endangered species. Dinerstein says the partnership strives to make Metrozoo "a world-class zoo for the 21st Century" with a program that not only displays animals, but educates and inspires the public into taking an active part in conservation efforts.
"We want to wow visitors," Dinerstein says, "and try to explain to people what is worth saving."