Lessons in Courage: Key Takeaways from WCN Expo

Erin Haley of Key Conservation's Core Team shares her experience at the WCN Expo in San Francisco, California.

The Wildlife Conservation Network Expo is a biannual gathering of global conservation organizations that takes place every Spring and Fall in California. I had the opportunity to attend this Fall in San Francisco, and it was remarkable to be in the presence of over 50 participating organizations.

The overall kindness and dedication of the conservationists displayed throughout the day was palpable, and there were many lessons learned. The theme of courage was a consistent one that emerged, and here is how it unfolded:

The courage to show up

Dr. Jane Goodall opened the WCN Expo with a sold-out lecture to the public, and in it she shared insights gained from the duration of her career and conservation projects. She encouraged the audience to stay hopeful by getting involved in their own efforts on a local level, with a gentle reminder that each of us has a role to play. Her message was beneficial in its simplicity: although it’s easy to get overwhelmed, taking action through consistent engagement is the best way to counteract those feelings and to stay hopeful.

She ended her talk with a Q&A session, inviting several children to join her on stage to discuss topics of their choice as she sipped from her glass of whiskey (how amazing is this woman?!) delivered to her by her longtime friend and WCN Co-Founder Charles Knowles.

Dr. Jane Goodall takes the stage at Fall 2019 WCN Expo to share her message of love and hope. © Erin Haley

The courage to face the numbers

The main Expo event was held at the Mission Bay Conference Center the following day. Conservation heroes traveled long distances from all over the world to come and spread awareness about their projects to better educate the public. It was inspiring to be around a group of like-minded people who show up to take significant action in their attempts to safeguard endangered animals across the globe.

The main expo hall and lecture rooms were charged with activity, energy, and engagement from visitors perusing booths and attending lectures. The conversations with fellow expo volunteers and conservationists really resonated, and it was inspiring to connect so directly with a large range of people in the field.

Many organizations stood out as executing exceptional initiatives for the animals they focus on. In spite of some very challenging data, this is how several of the conservation orgs who had presence at WCN Expo are staying engaged:

Andean Cat Alliance A successful Conflict Mitigation Program and CATcrafts are among the myriad programs in place to save the fewer than 1,400 adult Andean cats that remain in the high Andes and northern Patagonia

Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Program Hard at work to save the 500 remaining Ethiopian wolves from immediate extinction through intensive monitoring, research, and immunization

Ewaso Lions Safeguarding the last 2,000 lions in Kenya through community engagement, establishing a lions camp to teach kids about conservation, and female empowerment initiatives

Saiga Conservation Alliance (and Key Conservation Pilot Project!) Two decades of scientific research gained to empower local citizens to save the critically endangered Saiga in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Russia and Mongolia through education initiatives, anti-poaching ranger training, and outreach to young scientists

Pangolin Rescue Fund Newly launched in 2019 to invest in projects that will combat trafficking, increase public awareness, and launch consumer targeted campaigns to decrease demand for pangolin scales and meat

The courage to try and keep going

Hope and positivity reigned supreme throughout the stories shared during the event. So much of the battle is fostering awareness in the hearts and minds of people, while making connections and keeping the dialogue going. This is the main goal with the Key Conservation mobile app as well: to continue to make these connections as we create a global support network to connect small conservation organizations to the public.

Dr. Jane Goodall invites leaders representing at Expo from over 50 conservation organizations onto the stage after her lecture to introduce them to the audience. © Erin Haley

This will be accomplished in 3 main ways: through every day people stepping forward to offer financial resources, time, and/or skills-based volunteerism through the app to support conservation organizations who will have a platform with Key Conservation.

We intend to have a presence at WCN Expo next year, manning our own table and sharing the Key Conservation mobile app with you in person. Until then, stay tuned for more updates on the app’s final development phases and all things conservation optimism!

Couldn’t make it to the WCN Fall 2019 Expo? Talks may be viewed via WCN’s YouTube channel.


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