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  • Print publication year: 2010
  • Online publication date: October 2010

12 - Zoos, education, and public participation


In some ways protected islands are exceedingly good places to implement rare species recovery; restricted human access nearly eliminates direct impacts (e.g. poaching or illegal hunting), while the absence of adjacent lands reduces inputs that degrade habitat or hinder population growth (Janzen 1986). However, species isolation also limits opportunities for most people to see and interact with plants and animals, weakening the emotional connection that leads to support for recovery programs (Solomon 1998, Restani and Marzluff 2002, Rabb and Saunders 2005). Until recently relatively few people had ever seen an island fox or were familiar with the species (K. Dearborn, Friends of the Island Fox, personal communication). When it was apparent that several subspecies of island foxes faced extinction, the need to increase public awareness and gain support for risky and sometimes controversial recovery actions became a priority. The goal of successfully educating the public in a relatively short period of time fell to citizen advocates, zoos, and environmental educators, and a chronicle of recovery would be incomplete if it did not include the important contributions made to incorporate the public as much as possible within the island fox recovery program.

Public advocacy

The first efforts to increase public awareness of island foxes were undertaken by a unique environmental group organized and run by children. In 1999 Alexandra Morris was a third grader whose father was an archeologist at Channel Islands National Park.

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