Dr. Vince Virga is a veterinarian, scientific writer, and conservation activist. A three-time Macdowell fellow currently in residence at the Colony, Virga gave a TASC talk on his specialty of animal behavior and wildlife conservation.
Virga presented a comprehensive slideshow with photographs and video clips, explaining how animal care guidelines in zoological parks and wildlife preserves have evolved over the past three decades.
The original philosophy was centered on how the animal is best displayed for the convenience of visitors, with little regard to animal welfare beyond the safety and physical health of the animal.
More current thinking in zoological park construction involves the consultation of animal behavior specialists who help ensure that the artificial habitats mimic more closely conditions in the wild and incorporate design principles that take into consideration stimulation through play and the animal’s natural exploratory behavior.
Virga ended his presentation with an appeal to students to become more actively involved in wildlife conservation. According to his research, there are multiple hotspots around the world where endangered species are disappearing more rapidly than previously known.
The key factors in this worrisome development are habitat encroachment and climate change. Virga’s concern is that people are insufficiently alarmed about this issue, even though the warning signs point to a clear and present danger of permanent loss of wildlife.
Before taking student questions, Virga ended on a positive note by sharing two examples of activists in their late teens and early twenties making a significant difference in the wildlife conservation movement.