World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) interviewed Eric Dorfman for their February 2016 newsletter. The following are excerpts from that article:
Q: Recently you convened a workshop on Natural History Museums and Wildlife Trafficking. How can museums play a role in this increasingly important issue?
A: The ICOM NATHIST Wildlife Trafficking Working Group is the first coordinated effort by natural history museums across the globe to combat the illegal trade in wildlife. As natural populations become better protected, and the organisms more difficult to obtain, the black market is more frequently turning to museums for their activities. One thing museums
can do, and a major thrust of the Working Group Activity, is to recognize the value of their collections and to take better measures to safeguard their objects. The credibility that museums enjoy with the public also means that through exhibits and programming museums can be highly effective in raising awareness of the problem and work toward reducing demand for illicit goods. Natural history museums are also very active in working with authorities to identify seized specimens that are suspected of being illegally obtained. A white paper on these topics will shortly be circulated to key stakeholders in the global conservation sphere.
Eric’s 3 wishes for the Zoo Genie:
1. End the illegal wildlife trade through eliminating demand. Regulating and monitoring it can only do so much.
2. Make people understand that appreciating nature passively is not enough to preserve it for the future. We have address every aspect of our resource use practices.
3. Bring back a species from extinction. A mastodon would be nice. Or maybe a dodo.
Dr Eric Dorfman is the Director of Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, USA. He is an author of popular books on natural history, scholarly papers on museum operations, public programming, and the ecology of wetland birds. He is also a registered ICOM mediator and sits on their Ethics Committee. He is President of ICOM NATHIST.