Dr. Darron Collins visited Northside on September 23. He began his lecture by discussing his work with WWF, the World Wide Fund for Nature. The mission of WWF is partly to reduce humanity’s footprint on the environment. One of Dr. Collins’s first projects was to try to protect the Siberian tiger, of which only 500 were left in existence at the time. Dr. Collins noted that it is often easier to get the general public to rally around the cause of a beautiful creature like the Siberian tiger, but not as easy to garner support for less aesthetically pleasing organisms, such as the Taimen fish. Dr. Collins spoke of another project that he worked on — saving the Taimen fish from extinction. The Taimen fish can grow to be up to six feet in length and over 100 pounds, and at one time existed in various places across Eastern Europe and Japan. Over time, numbers of the fish dwindled until the only surviving population was located in northeastern Mongolia, in the Onon River. Even though the environment of the surviving population was relatively untouched, the numbers of fish continued to decline. Dr. Collins and his associates discovered that the root of the problem was the growing popularity of sport fishing for Taimen. Sport fishermen were catching Taimen and killing them, keeping them as trophies. In order to deter such practices, Mongolians in the area began to introduce catch and release fly fishing. This way, fishermen could still enjoy catching the large fish without killing them. Not only was this method successful in reversing the population decline, but also had unexpected benefits for Mongolians in the area. They were able to profit from the fly fishing and created the Onon River Taimen Sanctuary. I found it surprising that the conservation efforts made to save the Taimen actually impacted the local people, especially that it was able to improve their lives.
I think Dr. Collins wanted to leave us with an appreciation for the Earth’s inhabitants and understand the importance of conservation. Diversity of life important for the survival of many organisms and beyond that, diversity of life is what makes the world so beautiful. Many organisms can help us in unforeseen ways, whether it be providing a lucrative local attraction, or simply making our surroundings more interesting. Often we are unaware of the importance of an organism until it is nearly extinct and their absence has already been a detriment to us. To protect life in all its forms in the future, we must hone our curiosity and compassion today. All of life shares this planet, so we must be considerate of our fellow inhabitants of earth and limit any of our actions that negatively impact them.