Getting creative with conservation

Around the world, animals are under threat  and people are having to go to extreme measures to keep them safe

Keeping penguins cosy

After several oil spills near Australia’s Phillip Island in the 1990s, little penguins needed help. Oil weighs down and separates feathers, letting water chill the birds. Knits for Nature was set up to provide penguins arriving at the Phillip Island Nature Park wildlife clinic with jumpers to keep them warm and to stop them preening and ingesting the oil. The knitwear was removed once the penguins were washed and ready for release. Tens of thousands of jumpers were donated by knitters around the world, and the programme is now closed because they’re more than ready for any future oil spills.

 

Thinking big isn’t always the answer

When elephants damage houses and crops or endanger lives, it can lead to conflict with humans and even violent retaliation. It’s hard to keep elephants away from settlements with high fences because of their size and strength, so one conservation group started thinking much smaller. Elephants are afraid of bees, so the Elephants and Bees Project builds fences full of beehives. Not only do the insects keep the elephants from getting into trouble, they also provide a new source of income for local people.

 

A vital lesson from above

Cane toads are highly poisonous amphibians from Central and South America, but some were introduced to Queensland in the 1930s to eat insect pests. Northern quolls are native Australian marsupials with a diet that includes frogs. Quolls are already endangered, so ecologists are educating them before the cane toads spread into their territory. Their unconventional teaching method involves throwing toad-leg sausages out of a helicopter. The falling snacks are laced with nausea-inducing chemicals — just enough to teach quolls that toads are something they ought to avoid.

 

Getting into character

Growing up with human contact makes captive-bred animals less likely to be able to survive in the wild. Caretakers at the International Crane Foundation have taken an extreme measure to avoid the problem: they wear full-body costumes at all times when they’re around the whooping cranes they raise. A model bird head on one hand is used to teach chicks to forage, and the humans even teach them to fly by running and flapping their arms.