New Thinking Needed to Conserve Canada’s Wildlife and Ecosystems

By Mike Wilson and John Lounds

Despite the abundant wildlife and ecosystems in Canada’s North, nature is facing an alarming decline in southern Canada.

Habitat loss and fragmentation have resulted in significant loss of wildlife, leading to declines in many species that were once common, such as the Greater sage-grouse and the American bumblebee. Current approaches won’t be sufficient to ensure that humans and wildlife can thrive on a shared planet.

In recent years, we’ve seen a bold new vision for the coexistence and flourishing of humans and wildlife on Earth. A growing movement of scientists, conservationists, policymakers and business leaders are calling for governments to set aside 30 per cent of their land and waters by 2030, with the long-term goal of achieving sustainable land management and nature conservation across all our landscapes and seascapes. Traditional approaches to conservation are essential in achieving this vision, but without new thinking they are not enough to meet these goals and solve the towering challenges before us.

The threats facing our wildlife and ecosystems are staggering.

A Global Assessment Report released earlier this month by the UN Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services estimated that one million plant and animal species are at risk of extinction. And despite the abundant wildlife and ecosystems in Canada’s North, nature is facing an alarming decline in southern Canada. Habitat loss and fragmentation have resulted in significant loss of wildlife, leading to declines in many species that were once common, such as the Greater sage-grouse and the American bumblebee.

@ Viv Lynch

Canada and other countries are attempting to turn these trends around. Nations signed on to the Aichi Biodiversity Targets in 2010, under the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). Canada and other signatories committed to protect at least seventeen percent of their terrestrial areas and inland waters, and 10 percent of their marine and coastal areas by 2020.

We have seen inspiring efforts to make good on this pledge. Recently, the Government of Canada hosted the Nature Summit, a global gathering of leaders from governments, Indigenous nations, business and civil society to set an ambitious, post-2020 agenda for conservation. The summit saw a raft of new announcements for nature protection in Canada, such as formally protecting the Laurentian Whale Passage and establishing strict new standards for marine protected areas. This is in addition to the historic $1.3-billion investment in nature conservation initiatives that the 2018 budget committed to over five years.

A Shift in Thinking is Needed To Meet Our Goals

While we are getting closer to meeting our 2020 Aichi targets, this is just the beginning to achieving a sustainable society, and more ambitious action and results are needed. To meet the bold 30 per cent by 2030 targets proposed by scientists, we need to kick-start a shift in thinking on nature conservation. While governments have led conservation in the past, new thinking for nature must also bring together the collective efforts of businesses, Indigenous nations, communities and civil societies to build the foundation of a sustainable future.

Ensuring that ecosystems and wildlife can thrive alongside humans, now and in the future, means that we must broaden our idea of conservation. An expanded notion of conservation encompasses stewardship and protection measures in the landscapes and seascapes where Canadians work, live and play—such as urban areas, agricultural lands, and coastal fishing economies—as well as the ecologically intact protected areas that traditionally come to mind. This ‘new thinking’ for nature conservation does not displace traditional motivations and approaches to conservation, but instead ‘grows the tent’ by showing how conservation helps address many important challenges our country is facing.

New Thinking For Nature Needs to Attract Broad Coalitions of Unlikely Allies

It will involve working with public and mental health advocates to establish urban green spaces that help reduce stress and mental illness. Collaborating with municipalities to quantify how natural infrastructure— such as wetlands and floodplains—can cost-effectively deliver essential services such as flood prevention while helping us adapt to climate change. Demonstrating to industries as diverse as insurance, tourism, retail, and natural resources that nature conservation and sustainable resource management can lower business risks and lead to new innovation and investment opportunities. Most importantly, it means fostering nation-to-nation relationships with Indigenous peoples so that they are empowered to manage wildlife and protected areas on their traditional territories.

Imagining these new approaches to nature conservation is vital to realizing a shared vision of a Canada in which people and wildlife can flourish together.

Mike Wilson is executive director of Smart Prosperity Institute. John Lounds is president & CEO of the Nature Conservancy of Canada. Rick Bates is executive vice-president and CEO of the Canadian Wildlife Federation.

Reprinted with permission from The Hill Times: 5/27/2019 New thinking needed to conserve Canada’s wildlife and ecosystemsThe Hill Times

How Do Animals Communicate?

Sounds aren’t the only way species communicate with each other

Birds will chirps, wolves will howl, ducks will quack and owls will hoot…but what about other ways of communicating? Take a look below at the incredible world of non-verbal communications!

There was something in the air that night

Ever wonder how all the ants just seem to know when there’s a piece of food on the ground? That’s because when an ant finds a new food source, it will release pheromones near it and along its path to help direct its fellow ant-friends to the food source. When the food source is almost gone, they stop releasing pheromones to let the scent trail fade away.

We all know that when Pepé Le Pew feels threatened, it will defend itself by spraying a special eau de skunk spray towards the predator. This is the skunk’s non-verbal way of communicating to those around to stay far, far away!

Wolves mark their territories with urine and scats to warn other wolves this area is already occupied and to move along. Not only this, but they use a variety of non-verbal body language such as facial expressions, and body movement and positions to convey the rules of the pack and exert their dominance.

So you think you can dance

sunflower beesBees will return to the hive to tell other bees that it found that sweet pot of nectar by performing a bee waggle dance to indicate the location. The dance is interpreted by other bees through touch in darkness, inside the nest. Could the bee waggle be the next fortnite floss dance phenomenon? We sure hope so!

Touted as one of nature’s greatest dancers, the Greater Sage Grouse sure know how to strut their stuff to impress that special lady. They show off their dashing good looks by puffing themselves up and popping their air sacs on their chest in and out. This is one dance you must Google right now.

Courting pairs of Whooping Cranes are also best known for their dance performance. They perform an elegant and elaborate dance display that involves leaping, flapping their wings and tossing their heads. Sign this duo up for So You Think You Can Dance pronto!

It’s all in the flick

fawn deer and skunk

 The tail of a deer is more than just a tail – it can tell you what the deer is feeling. Deer will wag their tails if relaxed and feel no imminent threat. Things start to change at the half-mast, a tail that is halfway up. It’s the first sign that something just doesn’t feel right. Then there is the flare when their tail is sitting straight up, and this means they are on alert and know that there is danger around. And finally, they perform the warning flicks. These are fast and they’re telling others to get ready to make a run for it.

A squirrel’s tail does more than just help them with their balance. It’s a way to communicate! When squirrels see something that makes them feel a bit uneasy it will wag its tail and do tail flashing to let their fellow squirrels-mates know. When squirrels approach a member of the opposite sex, its tail will tremble or have shivering like motions to help draw attention to itself.

Slapping good time


We know Dolphins make those famous whistles and clicks sounds to communicate to others and to determine their locations, but they communicate in so many more ways! Dolphins will often slap its tail and flippers on water producing a loud sound to get the attention of others in the area.

Friend or foe? Only a kiss can tell

prairie dog

Greeting kisses are an important way of communication for Prairies Dogs. It may appear like their kissing, instead they’re actually baring their teeth and pressing mouths together to see if they are friends in the same social group or foes. If they are friends, then it’s business as usual, but if it’s a foe, they’ll fight it out.