And yes, Moehrenschlager is proud of their progress.
“I think it is one of the most dramatic recoveries for an endangered species in such a relatively short time anywhere,” he said.
“Picking a number was done a long time ago,” Moehrenschlager (above) said. One of the things about ecology in general and conservation in particular is that it is so unpredictable.” Similar concerns have led the foundation to consider reversing a 2011 decision to stop seeding the Nanaimo Lakes region to observe how the population there reacted.
The program’s initial years were about establishing a sustainable colony at the DWCC, an off-site branch of the zoo outside the public eye that is dedicated strictly to species rehabilitation.
Cheyney Jackson, the field coordinator for the foundation, said the knowledge and support of the zoo and other partners in the captive breeding program has been crucial to the survival of the species. “The recovery of the species to date is largely due to them.” When the first breeding program pups were introduced back into the wild in 2003, there were about 30 marmots living on Vancouver Island. The goal is ultimately to get the species downgraded from the national “endangered” list to the list of “special concern,” which basically means it will have reached a point of self-sustainability. Initial estimates pegged the “safe” population at 600.
But in the wake of further study, and given the number of variable factors involved, the rehabilitation team is hesitant to adopt any figure at all.
Even after two decades of study, the experts aren’t sure of the reasons.
Increased predation and habitat change are certainly factors, but how and why is something they are still struggling to grasp, even as they continue to take steps to address the issue. You start treatment of some sort without fully understanding the situation.