Helping endangered wildlife species one stamp at a time

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With the 100th anniversary of the extinction of the passenger pigeon fresh on our minds, I’m pleased to report an easy and inexpensive way that everyone can help prevent future extinctions of wildlife by simply mailing a letter.

The Save Vanishing Species stamp, or “Tiger Stamp” as it is commonly known, is named for the tiger cub depicted on the stamp.

Though the price of the Tiger Stamp has not yet been announced, it is expected to cost 6 to 11 cents more than a standard 49-cent first class postage stamp. The extra few cents will go directly to international conservation programs funded by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

It’s a great program because it requires no new tax revenue, and yet it helps endangered species such as tigers, elephants, and great apes. By using the Tiger Stamp, every greeting card, utility bill, wedding invitation, and personal letter will make a contribution to endangered species conservation.

Poaching still problem

“Poaching to feed the growing black markets for wildlife products such as elephant ivory and rhino horn is pushing several species closer to the precipice of extinction,” said FWS director Dan Ashe in a recent statement. “The American public can play a key role in reducing the threat to these global treasures by never buying products made from these animals and educating their friends and family to do the same.

“I am delighted that now they can once again also directly support on-the-ground conservation efforts by purchasing Tiger Stamps.”

Round Two

Originally created in 2011, the Tiger Stamp was only Congressionally mandated for two years. At the end of 2013, the Post Office pulled it from its inventory. The stamp was reauthorized by the Senate on July 31 and the House on September 8. President Obama signed the Multinational Species Conservation Funds Semipostal Stamp Reauthorization Act into law last month, guaranteeing an additional four years of sales.

During its first two-year run, the Tiger Stamp generated more than $2.5 million for international conservation from the sale of more than 25 million stamps.

An additional $3.6 million was leveraged from matching funds for 47 projects in 31 countries.

Among the species helped were elephants in India, gorillas in Cameroon and Nigeria, chimpanzees in Liberia, rhinos in Zambia and Zimbabwe, and green turtles in the Galapagos Islands.

The Tiger Stamp will soon be available at U.S. Post Offices and at www.USPS.com. For more information, visit www.tigerstamp.com.

Another stamp that helps

While at the post office or visiting the USPS.com web site, you might also consider buying a $15 “Duck Stamp.” More formally called the “Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp,” the Duck Stamp was created in 1934.

Hunters lobbied for this “tax” on themselves to ensure that waterfowl would forever fill the skies. A supplement to a state hunting license, a duck stamp is a federal license to hunt migratory waterfowl.

Ninety-eight cents of every duck stamp dollar goes to the National Wildlife Refuge System to buy or lease wetland habitat. That’s $14.70 from every stamp that goes directly to conservation.

Since 1934, duck stamps have raised more than $800 million to protect and manage more than 6 million acres of wetlands.

And what’s good for ducks and geese also benefits everything from songbirds and reptiles to amphibians and invertebrates. In fact, the FWS estimates that one-third of the nation’s endangered and threatened species are found on National Wildlife Refuges.

Furthermore, wetlands provide much more than wildlife habitat. Wetlands purify water supplies, store flood waters, reduce soil erosion and sedimentation, and provide spawning areas for many fish.

Though duck hunters are required to buy a duck stamp every year, all wildlife lovers should buy one voluntarily to support wetland conservation.

Duck stamps also act as a pass into refuges that charge an admission fee. Visit two or three refuges during a year, and the stamp pays for itself. The 2014-2015 duck stamp features a pair of canvasbacks.

Junior Duck Stamps ($5) are also available. Proceeds from Junior Duck Stamps support conservation education programs, so they’re great for students, parents, and educators, as well as hunters and birders.

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Scott Shalaway, who holds a Ph.D. in wildlife ecology from Michigan State University, writes from his home in rural West Virginia. A former faculty member at Oklahoma State University and the University of Oklahoma Biological Station, he has been writing a weekly nature column for newspapers and freelancing for magazines since 1986. He can be heard on Birds & Nature from 3-4 p.m. Sunday afternoons on 620 KHB Radio, Pittsburgh, or live online anywhere at www.khbradio.com, or on the Tune-In radio app. Visit his website at www.drshalaway.com or contact him directly at sshalaway@aol.com or 2222 Fish Ridge Road, Cameron, WV 26033.

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