By Kelsey Butler
Anniston Museum of Natural History
Why are plant, animal, and insect populations declining? And what can we do to stop it? These are questions buzzing around the newest exhibit at the Anniston Museum of Natural History.
The Battling Extinction exhibit is included in museum admission. AMNH Education Director Sarah Burke says the exhibit will be up through the holidays. “That way we know that our holiday folks that come through with their families will have the opportunity to see it.”
“Our mission statement is to enhance public knowledge in understanding and appreciation of living things and their environments,” Burke continues. “So this [exhibit] is, I would think, one-hundred percent to our mission.”
Standing in the exhibit hall, you are surrounded by white walls covered in photos and taxidermy of incredible creatures that could disappear altogether. It’s a heavy feeling.
The Battling Extinction exhibit is family friendly and explains words like endangered and extinct as well as the reasons populations are declining. The exhibit teaches about the Endangered Species Act and the organizations working to preserve plant and animal habitats.
Burke encourages visitors to utilize hands on stations such as the African elephant tusk on display. “That is truly an African elephant tusk, you can see the wear and tear on it that the elephant had throughout its life, using it for digging holes or moving things.”
There are barriers protecting most of the items on display and Burke says “One way that our public can help us is be respectful of what they’re seeing to make sure that future generations can learn about these animals without having to impact our wild population.”
“As a museum, first we want to educate, but we also want to preserve our collection and make sure that you can bring your grandkids and your great grandkids and all those guys can come back and learn about it too.”
Endangered species may sound like a problem far from our home here in Northeast Alabama, but Battling Extinction show us that there are species here who need our protection. “[Alabama is] number four for biodiversity, as far as states go, which is a huge feather in our cap, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t have plants and animals that are struggling,” Burke explains. “So we address the fact that Alabama does have endangered species in it, but we talk about how we have motions in place in order to protect the habitat and the species.”
At the end of the exhibit, you get to some good news. You’ll learn about the bald eagle and the American alligator, both of which are success stories because of the Endangered Species Act. “So we discuss that and then what you can do in your everyday lives: turn the water off, turn the lights out, recycling, biking to work if you can,” Burke says. “Little things, even in Calhoun County, make a difference.”
The Battling Extinction exhibit is capped off with a thank-you station. “There are a couple of local organizations on there that you can write thank-you notes to about what they’re doing for our environment too,” Burke says. “At then end of [the exhibit] we’re going to bundle them all up and send them to the appropriate organizations.”