EDGE celebrates 10 years of prioritising the weird and the wonderful!

by ZSL on

ZSL’s EDGE of Existence programme reaches its first decade of protecting the planet’s most Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered animals. So what is EDGE, why is our work so important, and how are we working to empower new conservation leaders? 

Pygmy three-toed sloth
The EDGE of Existence programme is working to protect species like the Critically Endangered pygmy three-toed sloth

The EDGE of Existence programme is the only conservation programme in the world to focus on animals that are both Evolutionarily Distinct (ED) and Globally Endangered (GE). 

ZSL conservationists use a scientific framework to identify the animals that are both highly distinct and also threatened. The resulting EDGE species are unique animals on the verge of extinction – the truly weird and wonderful! If these extraordinary animals were to become extinct, a whole chunk of evolutionary history would disappear with them.

Many such animals in need of urgent conservation action have previously been overlooked because they weren’t as ‘charismatic’ as species such as lions and tigers, or were poorly known. For 10 years, the EDGE programme has been putting these species on the map and working to guarantee their future. 

To date, EDGE lists have been created to highlight the most unique and threatened mammals, amphibians, corals and birds, with the latest addition, EDGE reptiles, launching later this year. The team has also mapped the world to reveal the regions with the greatest EDGE biodiversity. In 10 years, we’ve worked in 36 countries around the world, and carried out projects on 63 EDGE species! 

The programme works by investing in conservation at a grass-roots level. We support aspiring conservationists in developing countries to take the lead in researching and conserving their local EDGE species – the most effective and sustainable way to ensure the long-term survival of these animals. 

Granular salamander
EDGE Fellow Rafael Alejandro Calzada is researching the Critically Endangered Granular salamander

Every year, around 10 early-career conservationists are awarded one of ZSL’s two-year EDGE Fellowships. With mentorship from ZSL experts, and a grant to set up their own project on an EDGE species, each fellow gains a rigorous scientific grounding as well as practical experience. 

Each intake of fellows begins with a four-week training course in essential conservation tools, delivered in priority EDGE regions such as Madagascar, Costa Rica, Nepal, Kenya and the Philippines. Fellows then head back to work with their chosen species, keeping in touch with tutors via Skype. Many fellows are also juggling full-time work alongside their projects – but then, conservationists are a very committed species!

Over the past decade, 68 passionate conservationists from all over the world have completed the EDGE Fellowship programme and made an impact in the countries where they live.

This month, the EDGE of Existence team is hosting eight fellows from our 2016 group. They will be in London to attend a two week Conservation Leadership course at ZSL to provide them with the necessary skills to scale up their projects following the end of their fellowship. 


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