It really does pay to be a large animal with cute eyes and cuddly features…I’m talking about you, giant pandas! When it comes to conservation, these animals get all the love and attention. And it makes sense! They are prominent figures in an ecosystem and are usually at the top of the food chain.
But imagine a house of cards, where the playing cards on top represent our large animals. The only way this rickety house of cards stays balanced is if all the cards on the bottom are secure too. This house of cards acts very similar to the ecosystems around us and demonstrates the importance of protecting every animal, even the ‘little guy’.
It’s so easy to forget about the small animals that work behind the scenes. These animals pollinate flowers, spread seeds, and recycle nutrients in the environment. If they all disappeared overnight, the results would be devastating and we would end up with a collapsed house of cards.
So for last year’s Earth Month, Earth Rangers celebrated all things small with their “Stand Up for the Little Guy” campaign. Almost 800 Earth Ranger members took a stand to raise $75,000 for three projects that are working to restore these important animal habitats.
With a superstar line-up of five tiny animals, it’s no wonder these projects were a huge success. Almost a year later, its time to look back at how you, our Earth Ranger members, helped to protect the ‘little guys’.
So let’s meet a few of the fan-favourite creatures and find out how they’re doing after last year’s Earth Month campaign!
Home Sweet Home
Casually walking by a grassy knoll, you notice two big, bright eyes staring out at you from a shaded burrow. It isn’t long before more and more of these glassy eyes appear from within the dark recesses of the hole. Many years ago, these dens were a common sight and it wasn’t unusual to spot their curious inhabitants, the burrowing owl, running around open grasslands.
Unlike most owl species, burrowing owls are active during the day and, true to their name, live in burrows on the ground. These homes are well maintained by the owls and have complex layouts with designated areas for nesting, as well as sections to store food. But over the last couple decades, an increase in disturbances has made it almost impossible for burrowing owls to find a good place to make their dens.
So Nature Saskatchewan decided to create Operation Burrowing Owl. Their not-so-secret mission is to protect owl nests and restore the land that was once home to thousands of burrowing owls. Since they’ve started, they’ve successfully protected over 150, 000 acres of land and, thanks to our Earth Ranger members, were able to continue their work. They hope that one day in the future they can return burrowing owls to their historic numbers, and with your help, we know they can!
Standing around 8 cm tall and weighing as much as a tennis ball, meet the littlest of our little guys…the mighty Ord’s kangaroo rat! With a name like that, it’s easy to understand why they get such a bad rap, but a closer look reveals an adorable mousy-looking creature with a powerful jump. These animals have strong back feet that allow them to hurdle into the air in a similar fashion to the kangaroo they are named after. They have been known to jump as high as five times their height! To give you some perspective, the average person can’t jump the equivalent using a trampoline!
Even with this unique gift, Ord’s kangaroo rat still relies on a healthy habitat to provide protection, food, and a safe place to hibernate through the winter. Unfortunately, the destruction of their home has taken a serious toll on their populations. But last year, Earth Ranger members helped Nature Conservancy Canada (NCC) safeguard a large area in southern Alberta that the Ord’s kangaroo rat needs to survive. Way to go Earth Rangers!
Did Someone say ‘Goat’?
Nicknamed the ‘butcher bird’ for the gruesome way it eats its prey, the loggerhead shrike is found nowhere else in the world. Even though they are considered a songbird, they act more like a bird of prey. Patiently waiting on a high perch, they will swoop down to ambush unsuspecting prey like mice, snakes, and other birds. And having weak talons doesn’t faze this bird as it skewers its food on thorns, twigs, and even barbed wire fences before tearing off manageable pieces. This robin-sized bird can easily take down prey larger than them!
Sadly, road construction and crop expansion have led to significant habitat loss and degradation of the loggerhead shrike’s home. And it turns out, development and agriculture aren’t the only problems affecting these predatory birds. A very aggressive invasive plant, called leafy spurge, has started to creep in and take over the area. Not only does this plant spread and grow quickly, it also has a nasty trick up its sleeve. Leafy spurge releases toxins that can kill nearby plants, including the trees and bushes the loggerhead shrike need for nesting. So to battle this unwanted weed, the creative minds at SODCAP came up with a brilliant solution. Goats!! That’s right, I said goats!
It turns out that goats find leafy spurge delicious and will happily eat the plant, toxins and all! With your help, SODCAP continued their “goat project” and, with a team of goats, sheep, guard and herd dogs, they successfully covered over 1,000 acres of land!
As Earth Ranger members, you yourself are the ‘little guys’ of the world and have proven time and time again, you can be powerful influencers with a strong voice to create change. It’s no wonder this campaign was a success!
Thank you for a fantastic Earth Month 2019 and let’s make sure this year’s Earth Month is just as successful.
Help us beat last year’s goal!
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