CONSERVATION MARKETPLACE: Shopping For Wildlife

You have a chance to help people and wildlife around the globe just by shopping this week.

Zookeepers and conservationists from around the world are in Des Moines for a special conference. And, you can take part by looking for unique gifts that have a purpose.

Brad Rutherford says, “These are gorgeous embroidered napkins made in Pakistan.” Rutherford is in town selling napkins, booties and snow leopard ornaments. He says, “That you can put on a bottle as a gift.”

He’s attending the Zoo Aquariums Committing to Conservation Conference hosted by The Blank Park Zoo. He’s representing the Snow Leopard Trust. Rutherford says, “Snow leopards are gorgeous cats. They have these black rosettes with white and gold fur. Unfortunately, they’re endangered in the mountains of central Asia. So, China has the most, Mongolia, India, and Pakistan.”

Only 4,000 to 6,500 remain in the wild. He’ll share his organization’s conservation practices with more than 200 other zoo professionals at the conference. He’ll also sell items at the Conservation Marketplace, which helps endangered species like the snow leopard survive.

Rutherford says, “We work with the herders, 95% are women, to make some really great products, but we only buy them if the community signs and abides by conservation agreements that protect snow leopards and the prey species.”

The Conservation Marketplace takes place Wednesday from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. outside The Blank Park Zoo. There will be 15 vendors lined up selling everything from necklaces to purses. Jessie Lowry with the Blank Park Zoo says, “And, if you purchase something from these vendors then you get $2 off admission. And, these are products from all over the world, like Indonesia, Africa, Brazil.”

Organizers say all the products directly help protect wildlife and benefit the people who make the items. Rutherford says, “Because it’s not choosing between saving people and saving wildlife. It’s finding ways to make those work together, so you can help people and help wildlife at the same time.”



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