Education is the backbone of most conservation efforts. Until the public understands and appreciates how an entire habitat or a specific species is being negatively affected, then nothing will change in how they are perceived.
Influencing the public to care about a particular habitat or species can happen anywhere on a giant scale. From going to the habitat and educating locals on what actions they can take to protect it, to global efforts to give a habitat or species a 'conservation spotlight.' Both ends of this spectrum are often crucial to success.
An important factor to consider in conservation is that education is not unidirectional in these situations. Often, the public that is in proximity to the region of interest possess a share of information that can aid in planning out conservation efforts. Keeping such dialogues open can make a huge difference in the implementation of conservation actions.
As you can see by the background here, some of our animals have been subjects for National Geographic's Photo Ark, captured by Joel Sartore. This project has had tremendous reach across social media platforms and has helped raise public awareness for many endangered species, along with funds for their conservation.
There are many success stories for conservation as a whole. But of particular interest to us, are the collaborative efforts in Guatemala to protect Abronia campbelli and Heloderma charlesbogerti and restore their habitats. Not only have they engaged the locals in meaningful ways to build the relationships necessary for success. And in doing so, they were able to get the public to largely shift their opinions about these animals, and to view their presence in a positive manner (ie- the Heloderma keeping rodent populations low so the farmers crops can flourish.)
As we've been networking and building our plans for similar efforts in Mexico, we have always kept the project in Guatemala in mind. Not only as a model to build toward, but one to build off of as well. As in conservation, there is always room for improvement and to learn from the successes and failures of those before you.