Alliance for Zero Extinction


PROJECT OBJECTIVES: To prevent the extinction of endangered and critically-endangered species restricted to one remaining site.

28 May-18 July

Before I officially depart on my Keegan, I am completing and internship with Alliance for Zero Extinction [AZE] in the offices of American Bird Conservancy in D.C. It’s an inspirational place to work.  The purposes of some of the meetings, though not always overtly stated as such, are as ambitious as ‘reforesting the Andes’ or ‘beginning to save a few more species in each country where we work this year’.  Just yesterday, through an open door [the doors are always open], I heard one side of a phone conversation.  I thought this was pretty beautiful, coming from a candid conversation of a 40-something year old who’s been with the same organization [ABC] almost 20 years:

“To change the world, you have to… change the world. And you can’t change the world by doing something that’s been done before. To change the world you have to do things that have NEVER been done before”.

Alliance for Zero Extinction [AZE] itself is a partnership of some 96 NGOs across the world, all working on the common mission of combatting species extinction. Scientists with the alliance have worked to identify those species classified as “Endangered” or “Critically Endandgered” according to the IUCN that are restricted to one remaining site in the world. These are the animals that will go extinct within the next decades, if no one intervenes; so the purpose of the concept of an AZE species/site is to prioritize efforts.

The nice thing about AZE’s particular Conservation Triage is that, in a manner, it is rather optimistic. The effort implies that we could stop all species extinction, and that in order to do that we first have to though a wrench in the momentum of those species hurling towards the brink.  When those species are secured, we can throw the net wider; beginning to prevent other species from reaching that level of endangerment. Even just to halt extinction of those most vulnerable species, however, a lot of funding, initiative, and cooperation is vital.

The other great thing about AZE is that it focuses on habitat protection.  By protecting the sites where the world’s rarest species are found, one tends to protect areas of great biodiversity that are under threat. Creating a reserve at this site, one not only protects the ‘target’ or ‘trigger’ species, but all of the other plants and animals that happen to share its home.

My biggest project at AZE is directly aimed at increasing the amount of funding, initiative, and cooperation aimed at AZE sites/species. According to the Convention on Biological Diversity, signatory nations have an obligation to strategically fight the loss of biodiversity within their borders; and to have arrived at certain mileposts by the year 2020. So, my greatest project is LifeWeb, which is aimed at assisting signatories comply with their pledge. LifeWeb allows countries requiring assistance in meeting their obligations to CBD [generally less-developed countries] to submit ‘Expressions of Interest’ to a clearing house; where countries with greater financial resources can find and fund projects.  Now is an appropriate time to send a big shout-out to Germany, who has given 158,000,000USD through LifeWeb to the conservation of biodiversity in 30 countries across the world. GERMANY, YOU ARE TOO COOL.

“We can prevent extinction; we’ve demonstrated that….knowing that an extinction was something we could have stopped and chose not to—I think that’s where people kind of gulp and don’t want to go down that road.”

John Nagle, professor of law at University of Notre Dame


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© Copyright Emma Steigerwald | Vanderbilt Traveling Fellow