What is Edge of Existence and why do I support them?
I grew up in the home counties just to the north of London in England. We lived in a modest tied cottage on the side of the small estate where my father was in charge of maintaining their landscaped gardens perimetered by hay fields and farmland. And though we were surrounded by green belt fields, our local town began its sprawl barely a mile away.
These surroundings gave me my first awareness of the threats and fragility of our green spaces and wildlife.
Grass cutting days were a particularly big event in the holidays in which I spent the day piling grass clippings high up in the trailer they were being collected in, getting bitten and jumped on by insects that got caught up in the chaos. I delighted in picking fruits from the orchard and watched in fascination as the ferret man as I called him, came to control the local pheasant and rabbit population. I often sat at my bedroom window in the evenings looking over our back garden into the fields beyond. Watching the planes fly over our local town in the distance, while the pigeons cooed as summer twilights set in.
After relocating to London as an avid walker and explorer I went about discovering everything I could about what made this city tick. In particular how we all move and interact with our urban environment in all its forms. These experiences led me to work with Zoological Society of London in a gap year during my studies where I got an insiders view on wildlife conservation and habitat protection first hand, where my passion for the subject was fully ignited.
However this was not my first encounter with the organistion. As a teenager we often went to Whipsnade Zoo in Bedfordshire for school visits, art class drawing days and family days out. And so the seeds of species and habitat protection were sewn.
In 2015 my sister suggested I run the London Zoo Stampede 10k race in Regents Park with her. I jumped at the chance as I have always wanted to take up running more seriously and sign up for some races, and it had the added bonus of raising money for an organisation I felt passionately for. Not long after cutting my teeth with the runs at London Zoo I signed up for more, including my first marathon distance at Brighton Marathon, running in aid of the Edge of Existence programme.
The EDGE of Existence programme is the only global conservation initiative to focus, highlight and protect some of the most unique and endangered species that represent a significant amount of unique evolutionary history and their habitats.
EDGE species have very few close relatives and are often extremely unusual in the way they look, live and behave, as well as in their genetic make-up. They represent a unique and irreplaceable part of the world’s natural heritage, yet an alarming proportion are on the verge of extinction.
The aim of the EDGE programme is to put these species on the map and catalyse conservation action to secure their future.
Each year a number of the most poorly known and neglected EDGE species are selected for conservation attention. Where virtually nothing is known, ZSL-led expeditions often represent the first step in determining whether rare and cryptic EDGE species still survive. Longer-term surveys are carried out by EDGE Fellows (aspiring in-country scientists that receive financial, institutional and logistical support from the EDGE programme) to determine the status of these species and identify appropriate conservation actions. ZSL partners with EDGE Alumni to support long-term, scaled up conservation projects focusing on their priority EDGE species.
The ultimate goal of the EDGE programme is to ensure that local stakeholders, governments, and in-country and international conservation organisations take ownership of these forgotten species and commit to ensuring their future survival.