Recognizing commitment by an individual to promote and enhance the conservation of Canada’s natural resources
In a better world, conservation would be a preventative issue focused on how to manage development that allows societies to prosper, but not at the expense of the ecosystems that sustain them. Unfortunately, that is far from the case today. Worldwide, the rate of extinction is accelerating, and when a species vanishes from a historical range, the only potential road back is the challenging science of reintroduction.
In Canada, at least, endangered species have an edge when it comes to the prospect recovery, thanks to efforts of a committed scientific community. Among its notable members, especially in the area of reintroduction, is this year’s Roland Michener Conservation Award winner, Axel Moehrenschlager.
Head of the Centre for Conservation Research at the Calgary Zoo since 1999, Moehrenschlager has led an impressive number of recovery projects. Among his successes has been the reintroduction in Western Canada of black-footed ferrets, which had been extinct there since 1938. As co-chair of the National Swift Fox Recovery Team, he also helped ensure the survival of this species — which was once extinct in Canada — through a program that is now globally considered one of the best of its kind.
Moehrenschlager has also made important contributions to conservation science, particularly in developing tools to help other researchers. In one project, he created a database of more than 500 species worldwide, both reintroduced and naturally occurring, with similar threat statuses. The database has become a powerful tool for determining candidate species for reintroduction.
These projects are only a sampling from a long list of achievements. Moehrenschlager has also received numerous awards for his work. To his colleagues, however, he is perhaps best appreciated for the positive approach he brings to his work as an academic, researcher, mentor and naturalist. In their words, he is “a true Canadian conservationist.”