Conservationist looks for others to continue the fight
By Darah Hansen
Anthony Marr is on a mission. Heís out to create a whole new generation
of people who care about the fate of tigers and grizzly bears.
"Thatís exactly why Iím going to the schools," said Marr, a Vancouver
resident. "There are too few wildlife conservationists in my generation."
In the past few months, Marr, a vocal and sometimes controversial
conservationist, has visited dozens of high schools across the Lower
Mainland in an effort to raise awareness around and interest in endangered
wildlife. Included in his lecture circuit recently have been two Richmond
high schools, London secondary and Hugh Boyd.
With a slide show of his recent trips to India where he works with the
environmental organization HOPE (Heal Our Planet Earth), Marr opens the
presentation by exploring the dire situation of the Bengal tiger ó whose
numbers have been decimated by trophy hunters and poachers.
"At the turn of the century there were upwards of 80,000 tigers in
India," Marr said. "By 1972, there were about 1,800."
Marr said efforts on the part of the Indian government to ban the tiger
hunt for the past 30 years may prove to be "too little, too late."
Poaching ó "The West wants their pelts. The East wants their bones and
organs," he said ó starvation, habitat destruction through deforestation
and cattle overgrazing have left little hope for the tigersí future.
Already three subspecies of the tiger are extinct. Another subspecies,
the South China tiger, counts less than 400 animals to its numbers. Of the
four subspecies left, the population remains weak at about 4,000 animals.
Marr doesnít spare the young students the reality of the situation.
"The message is," he said, "that the wildlife situation is getting more
and more urgent."
One of the provinceís loudest voices in the move to ban grizzly bear
trophy hunting, Marr also ties his presentation into the local situation.
In B.C., he said, government officials count 10,000 grizzlies in the
population, while independent biologists put the figure much lower at
between 4,000 and 7,000.
He wants Canada to ban the bear hunt now ó "so the grizzly doesnít go
the same way as the tiger."
"The point is," he said, "if India banned the tiger hunt at 10,000,
their situation would be much more savable."
Marr said heís been thrilled at the response he gets from the majority
of students who hear his lecture.
"I get an excellent response," he said.
He estimates that one out of every 100 students is encouraged enough to
take action on the issue by joining an environmental group or starting one
up in their own school.
Those are the students Marr hopes will go on to become professional
conservationists some day, taking over the work from where he and his
colleagues have left off.
"Thatís the only solution in my mind," he said. "Creating new wildlife
conservationists to take over from us."
Educational Outreach: Secondary (High) Schools and Universities