Zoo celebrates Pacific lamprey at World Rivers Day event

September 24, 2019 - 3:16pm

Sept. 29 celebration includes keeper talks and activities focused on world's waterways

From the Columbia in Oregon to the Nile in Egypt, rivers sustain life. On World Rivers Day, Sept. 29, the Oregon Zoo, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission and many tribal partners will celebrate these vital habitats with cultural events and conservation activities throughout the zoo, including the official grand opening of the zoo's Pacific lamprey habitat.

"We've set aside this day to honor our 400-million-year-old neighbor — the Pacific lamprey — and the rivers that are so important to the people and wildlife of our region," said Grant Spickelmier, the zoo's curator of conservation and learning. "We look forward to celebrating with everyone who has joined together to welcome lamprey back to their home streams and keep them off of the endangered species list."

Pacific lamprey are a tribal trust species for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a species of concern for the states, and a species of immense cultural significance to Pacific Northwest tribes.

"Not only does this exhibit represent how lamprey connect us to a rich past and, with our help, a promising future, it shows an incredible connection among partners," said Robyn Thorson, USFWS director for the Pacific Region. "By working together on this exciting new exhibit, we introduce new generations to their 'ancient neighbor' and continue our conservation mission into the future."

"The lamprey in the new Oregon Zoo exhibit will be ambassadors," added Jeremy Red Star Wolf, chair of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. "They will introduce visitors to this ancient, vital, native Columbia Basin fish and the cultural connection they have with the region's tribes. The tribes hope that learning about and seeing them, visitors will grow to cherish lamprey as we do, and realize how their recovery is foundational to the health and recovery of the entire Columbia River ecosystem."

As part of this event, the zoo is extending free admission to all American Indian/Alaska Natives for both World Rivers Day (Sept. 29) and Indigenous Peoples' Day (Oct. 14) with proof of tribal affiliation or descendent status (tribal ID, CDIB, etc.). Free admission will be offered for up to four family members per card.

Keeper talks and conservation activities will take place throughout World Rivers Day, with help from members of CRITFC, the Umatilla Tribe, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Clean Water Services, Clackamas River Basin Council, Tualatin Soil and Water Conservation District, Tryon Creek, Oregon Wild/Wolf Ways, SOLVE, Columbia Gorge Refuge, Metro Parks and Nature, Master Gardeners, Friends of Tualatin River, U.S. Forest Service, Cow Creek lamprey biologists and the Willamette Falls Legacy Project.