Elliot Connor is a young conservationist living in Sydney, Australia. He is a passionate insect-lover, and his raised fig tree leaf beetles, spiny leaf stick insects, and assassin bugs in addition to his three pygmy bearded dragons at home. He runs a field naturalist group in the Sydney area, and has recently won a competition to name a marine data-gathering Argos float… after Alan, the oldest ever Antarctic Krill.
What interested you in the Lost and Found project?
When I came across Lost and Found, I was holed up in a castle in a remote French National Park for a month, volunteering at a bird hospital. In my spare time, I would go for walks across the mountainous countryside, and so as you can imagine, I had a lot of time to think. Now my thoughts ranged from music to schooling to how bloody cold it was, but one in particular kept returning- and that was, quite simply, that conservation is dominated a.) by the media, who for the most part ignore it, then paint it in the most unflattering of lights, and b.) by large conservation organizations, who can but be said to ‘preach to the converted’. The way I saw it, Lost and Found was an opportunity to open up the conversation about conservation through its accessible, engaging style.
What is your favourite Lost & Found Story so far?
The politician in me tells me I can’t answer this question, and honestly it’s impossible to choose. But if I had to pick one, I would have to say that the Fernandina Giant Tortoise’s rediscovery earlier this year was a fascinating piece for me to write. The very fact that such a large, prominent creature could escape notice on so featureless an island for such a length of time seems near-miraculous to me, and then having a camera crew being the ones to find it only adds to the fun!!
Who is your conservation hero?
That’s a much easier question, to which the answer is- of course- Gerald Durrell. His autobiographical memoir My Family and other Animals is still my favourite book in the entire world, with its witty, talkative writing style combining with the most touching anthropomorphism to create a book without parallel. Writing aside, I believe that Durrell’s work at Jersey Zoo in establishing a global trend for breeding endangered species in captivity is the single most important contribution toward conservation made by an individual this century- the only possible exception being that of Attenborough, and he doesn’t really count!
What do you do when you are not working on Lost & Found?
Well… do you want the short answer, or the exceedingly long answer? Or both? The short answer is ‘a lot’. The exceedingly long answer is that, besides schoolwork, I get out and about as much as I can, volunteering with organizations including Birdlife Australia, National Parks Service, the Australian Bird Banding Scheme, the Wilderness Society, the Nature Conservation Council, the World Wildlife Fund, Jane Goodall Institute, various Landcare groups etc. Today I’m doing bat counts for a local park and making origami sea creatures to fundraise for marine conservation.
How does storytelling factor into conservation?
So I’ve sort of already answered this question, but
I’ll restate my response anyway. In this day and age in which most people
switch off at the very mention of climate change or extinction, we are in
desperate need of new methods of communication, so that these important stories
can be heard above the depressing white noise of the media and politics.
Attenborough is a global sensation, and yet all he does is tell stories about
nature and wildlife in a way which everyone, regardless of their background,
can appreciate and understand. It’s clear that storytelling is a universal
language, and really I think that’s just what we need to break through the
barriers built up around this issue.
Attenborough once said:
“No one will protect what they don’t care about; and no one will care about what they have never experienced”
and this, I believe, is both the single greatest issue facing conservationists globally. Because we have to care about nature to care for nature.