Fifteen years ago this month, 11 captive-reared, Mexican gray wolves were released into the wild for the first time in the Blue Range Recovery Area of Arizona and New Mexico. These magnificent creatures had almost become extinct; their distinctive howl had nearly been silenced.
To mark this anniversary, during the week of March 23-30 wildlife organizations, zoos, advocacy groups, businesses and individuals will join forces using social media to celebrate these Mexican gray wolves and educate the public about the important role these animals play in our ecosystem.
The Wolf Conservation Center (WCC) located in South Salem, N.Y. is one of the organizations leading #LoboWeek. Since 1999, this nonprofit has promoted wolf conservation by teaching about wolves, their relationship to the environment and our role in protecting their future. As a member of the organization's Board of Directors, I have witnessed firsthand how tirelessly the small, committed staff works to protect wolves.
The Mexican gray wolf is an endangered species. The WCC is the home of 15 of these wolves and its captive breeding program is highly successful. The six Mexican wolf pups born in 2008 are among the 15 wolves that live off-exhibit at the WCC in a natural environment where these elusive creatures can reside with minimal human contact. This setting safeguards their natural behavior and best prepares them for a wild future. Two of the WCC's Mexican wolves have received the "call of the wild," the first released into the wilds of the southwest. The WCC's participation in captive breeding and its ability to accommodate endangered wolves is essential for these animals to resume their rightful place in the wild.
Maggie Howell, executive director of the WCC, has enlisted the support of dozens of organizations such as the California Wolf Center, the Arizona soccer team, Phoenix Wolves and the Columbus Zoo, among others for the #LoboWeek campaign.
"We are putting together our resources as a 'pack' to inform the public about the plight of the Mexican gray wolf. It is our hope that through a concentrated social media campaign we will not only raise awareness, but also funding for nonprofits that help wolves," she said.
Participants of #LoboWeek are urged to change their Facebook cover photo to reflect something related to the lobo. Images can be found here. A special logo been designed for #LoboWeek by Chris Cross of National WolfWatcher Coalition that is available here. This logo has a transparent background and can be overlaid on your cover photo. The logo reflects no affiliation with a single organization making it a neutral, yet unifying, tool, for all #LoboWeek partners.
All partners are urged to post educational facts, articles, contests, games and special events. Twitter is also essential to the success of this campaign. Using #LoboWeek on all lobo-related tweets will enable a community of supporters to emerge.
In a related challenge outside of the Southwest's lobo recovery zone...
Despite efforts by animal welfare groups to protect wolves, a bill passed in the lame duck session of the Michigan legislature last year that would allow the trophy hunting of wolves for the first time in nearly 50 years. Since there are fewer than 700 wolves in Michigan, it is totally senseless that the state would spend decades ensuring the survival of wolves only to turn around and sanction their slaughter.
A coalition of animal welfare organizations, conservation groups and Native American tribes has launched a referendum campaign to qualify for the November 2014 general election ballot and enact a public veto of that legislation. The group has launched a new website for volunteers and voters at www.KeepWolvesProtected.com. The goal of the organization is to keep wolves safe from sport hunting and trapping in Michigan.
The wolf is a magnificent creature. Rather than hunting it down, we should be looking for more ways to protect it. Even if you can't contribute financially to the efforts of various organizations that help wolves, lend your support by sharing information about #LoboWeek with your friends on Facebook and Twitter beginning March 23.