Zoo enlists visitors' help to protect endangered species

May 14, 2014 - 2:18pm

Endangered Species Day event aims to raise awareness about imperiled wildlife

Asian elephants, African wild dogs and Sumatran orangutans are three of the most beloved animals at the Oregon Zoo. In the wild, they share a more troubling distinction: All are severely imperiled.

Of the roughly 230 species of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish and invertebrates living at the zoo, more than 50 are endangered or threatened. On Friday, May 16, the zoo will celebrate these creatures while raising awareness about the struggles they face in observance of Endangered Species Day.

"Our zoo's mission is to inspire our community to create a better future for wildlife," said zoo education curator Grant Spickelmier. "Endangered Species Day is an opportunity for zoo visitors to learn about the importance of protecting endangered species and everyday actions they can take to help them survive."

Zoo staff and volunteers will be present at six key exhibits to discuss the importance of protecting endangered species and how to help them survive.

Volunteers will be present at each of these exhibits from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and keeper talks are scheduled as follows:

  • Sumatran orangutans - 11 a.m.
  • Western pond turtles - 11:30 a.m.
  • California condors - 12:30 p.m.
  • Malayan sun bears - 1 p.m.
  • African wild dogs - 1:30 p.m.
  • Humboldt penguins - 2:15 p.m.

Two of the stations — western pond turtle and California condor — will offer visitors the inside story about the zoo's native Northwest species recovery programs. Since 1998, the zoo has participated in collaborative efforts to recover species such as the Oregon silverspot butterfly, Taylor's checkerspot butterfly, Oregon spotted frog and western pond turtle. In 2002, the zoo began working with Columbia Basin pygmy rabbits and the following year it began breeding California condors.

Globally, the zoo works with partners to bolster on-the-ground efforts to save species ranging from Canadian polar bears to Bornean orangutans to Humboldt penguins off the coast of Peru.

"Worldwide, passionate individuals are dedicating their lives to fighting extinction, resolving human-wildlife conflict and protecting habitat," said Dr. David Shepherdson, the zoo's deputy conservation manager. "Every visitor that walks through the Oregon Zoo's gates helps in these efforts, whether it's through activism, education or supporting the zoo's conservation efforts."

The Oregon Zoo Foundation's Wildlife Partner program allows the zoo community to directly support global conservation efforts for species including black rhinos, California condors and Asian elephants. Join us today.