"Once you lose a species, you can't get it back. Once you lose it, that's it."
That quote is from Milt Miner, one of the two owners of Gooseneck Hill Waterfowl Sanctuary.
There are currently thousands of species on planet earth being confronted with extinction. From mammals to amphibians to plants, the number of living things being threatened is constantly increasing, and the threat comes from many different sides.
Habitat destruction, pollution and over hunting are just a few of the myriad reasons for the diminishing populations worldwide. But there are those among the human species who are devoting their lives to preservation.
One of them is right here in Delevan, New York.
Gooseneck Hill Waterfowl Sanctuary is a welcome haven for endangered waterfowl, and is the largest one of its kind in the world.
Rosemary Miner is Milt's wife, and the other owner of the sanctuary. "If we don't try to save them, there won't be any birds left. Every year, more and more becoming extinct, and we're trying to save what's left."
The sanctuary is one of the last places on earth to see some of the waterfowl that live here. Birds like the Nene Goose, a native of Hawaii that is the rarest goose in the world.
"There's only between 600 and a thousand left," says Rosemary. "They were killed off until there were only six left in the entire world, so all of them are highly inbred. They're all cousins or relations or aunts or uncles. They were eating the sugar cane crop in Hawaii, so the Hawaiians killed them off, and then they introduced the mongoose, and they killed off what was left. Now there's very few of them, and because they're so highly inbred, the species are becoming weaker and weaker, and eventually they will be extinct."
Another species finding asylum at Gooseneck Hill is the Red Breasted Goose, considered the world's most beautiful, a distinction which hasn't really gone in their favor. Native to Russia and northern Europe, climate change has contributed to a precipitous drop of over 50 percent in recent years, but that decline is also being accelerated by another source.
"They keep taking them off of the endangered list and then putting them back on," explains Rosemary. "They should just leave them on so that the hunters in Romania and Bulgaria can't annihilate them, but there's no rules there, so they just hunt them because they're so beautiful, the most beautiful goose in the world, and we have over a hundred of them here."
Caring for so many birds is a daunting task, one that at times seems insurmountable. But the Miners do it both for love of the birds as well as the human generations to come.
"The birds eat a lot of food a day," as Rosemary explains to 2 The Outdoors. "They eat over a hundred pounds of food a day, and they have to have special food, and we have a veterinarian that comes out once a month and helps take care of them if they get sick. So supporting us would probably be the best thing they could possibly do to help save endangered species, because we'll be here forever for the birds."
For those who think that individuals cannot have an impact on the environment, then look no further than Gooseneck Hill for a shining example of what a few people can do to help the planet.
"We get a feeling of satisfaction that we're doing something good for them and for future generations of children and whatever else," says Milt. "If we don't save them around here, there's nothing around our area even close to our place here."
Rosemary agrees. "You know, they're not just something you toss by the side of the road and leave there. You have to respect them, because if you don't, what's going to be around for future generations? There won't be any birds. I mean, can you imagine a planet with no birds?"
For more information on this very unique sanctuary, visit their website www.gooseneckhillwaterfowlfarm.com.