This year’s Wildlife Conservation Network Expo in full swing at the Mission Bay Conference Center.
It’s a sunny, fall day in October and I am driving into San Francisco. I pass the colorful Love Parade floats revving up without a glance of longing. I pass the turn towards Golden Gate Park for Hardly Strictly Blue Grass Festival without an ounce of FOMO (fear of missing out). I giddily park outside of Mission Bay Conference Center and enter the Wildlife Conservation Network’s yearly Expo. Parades and music will have to wait; I am ready to gorge myself on colorful wildlife and rock star conservationists. Each year I am more amazed and enthralled by this extraordinary event.
The Wildlife Conservation Network (WCN) was founded in 2002 in Los Altos by Charlie Knowles and Akiko Yamazaki. Their unique approach to conservation is based on the venture-capitol model and offers organizations expert networks, fundraising support, global exposure and Silicon Valley expertise. 100% of donations to WCN go to programs. It is an efficient system with measurable results and an excellent example of conservation action.
The Wildlife Conservation Expo is a dream come true for wildlife people, and after many years of attending, it feels like an international family reunion of cousins related by their passion for animals and the natural world. Flying in from 30 countries, including the mountains of Uganda, the savannahs of Zimbabwe or the steppes of Uzbekistan, they come together to share their miraculous projects. I marvel that I simply need to navigate the s-curved bridge from Oakland to be amongst this kin of conservation heroes.
The day consists of short and sweet speaking sessions from these 24 wildlife powerhouses, each one more inspiring than the next. Between sessions, participants visit the many tables featuring local, national and international groups and projects. The Oakland Zoo table was surrounded by such favorite groups as Africa Matters, Animals Asia, WildAid, Reptile & Amphibian Ecology International, Project Tamarin, Mountain Gorilla One Health Program, Red Panda Network, Elephant Voices, or our Teen Wild Guide’s favorite, The Saiga Conservation Alliance. Add in mingling with hundreds of like-minded people, and it is a day that can’t be beat. Oh, did I mention Jane Goodall is the keynote speaker? As I write this, I watch her graciously speak with participants, sign books and scratch the head of one of the Working Dogs for Conservation. Lucky dog.
At Dr. Jane’s presentation, she begins with her uncanny chimp-like pant-hoot greeting and reminds us that passion is the most powerful asset one could have. That if we all explored and exercised our passions, what a different world it would be. As usual, I leave WCN with new ideas, new reasons to be hopeful and renewed gratitude for WCN.
The 2010 dates have yet to be decided. Watch the website for details.