What does the Saint Louis Zoo have to do with Africa? More than you might think. It is a founding member of the Sahara Conservation Fund, which works to protect endangered species in Africa.
“The zoo was already involved in captive breeding of these species and was really keen to get involved in the preservation of these species in the wild,” said John Newby, a conservation fellow with the Saint Louis Zoo and the CEO of the Sahara Conservation Fund.
Newby is working to preserve the ostrich, the addax antelope and the dama gazelle, among other species. All three are housed in the Saint Louis Zoo. The addax antelope and the dama gazelle are both critically endangered, with just 300 of each species remaining in the wild.
The impact of extinction, said Newby, is most felt within the ecosystem of that species. While the loss of one species may not impact a person’s day to day life, they still should care because it all adds up.
“There is a degree of redundancy I suppose in any system,” he said. “It’s a bit like a jigsaw puzzle. You lose one piece of the jigsaw puzzle; you can still see the picture. Maybe if you lose 10 pieces, you see the picture. But if you start losing 20 pieces and especially the important edge pieces and corner pieces, then you start losing the whole structure. And that’s the important thing. The more we pull the web of life apart, the more it unravels. And when it unravels, we unravel with it.”
According to Newby, the biggest threat to endangered species in the Sahara today comes from hunters who come in with guns and trucks. Comparatively, the nomads who make the Sahara their home and hunt on foot with spears have little impact.