Visitors can peek inside zoo butterfly lab this weekend

Endangered Species Day offers chance to view imperiled pollinator conservation

Visitors to the Oregon Zoo this weekend can catch a rare glimpse of the life cycle of two of its most elusive — and endangered — residents. To celebrate Endangered Species Day, the pathway to the zoo's butterfly conservation lab will be open on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Keepers and volunteers will be on hand to answer questions about the Taylor's checkerspot and Oregon silverspot butterflies that are raised in the lab and released into the wild each year.

"This is a great opportunity for people to see the work we do in the lab," said Travis Koons, who oversees the zoo's butterfly programs. "The Taylor's checkerspot butterflies are hatching right now and we have silverspots in diapause preparing to wake up, so there's a lot going on."

A flurry of activity is business as usual at the butterfly conservation lab. A team of keepers adheres to meticulous timetables for waking, releasing, breeding and feeding both the checkerspot and silverspot butterflies, which develop according to different schedules. Detailed manuals and yearlong schedules are necessary to ensure each egg has the best possible chance of becoming a mature butterfly.

This level of care is crucial: the Taylor's checkerspot butterfly is an endangered species, and the Oregon silverspot is listed as threatened by the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service. While the butterflies themselves are small, they are important pollinators and have a big impact on their ecosystem.

In addition to the Q&A, keepers will have touchable props and posters on hand to illustrate the life stages of the butterflies. Visitors to the zoo can take the pathway to the butterfly lab from Rainforest Plaza near the African Rainforest habitat.

Endangered Species Day is being celebrated throughout the zoo Saturday. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service specialists and educators will be on hand to teach visitors about endangered fish, ending the trade in endangered species wildlife trafficking and the recovery success story of bald eagles. And guests can visit endangered species that call the zoo home — like cheetahs, Rodrigues flying foxes and Amur tigers — and learn how to help with conservation efforts.

The Oregon Zoo works in partnership with and receives funding from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and Joint Base Lewis-McChord and its Army Compatible Use Buffer program to rear checkerspots and release them into the wild. Additional project partners include the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, The Evergreen State College, Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women, and the Xerces Society. For silverspots, the Oregon Zoo partners with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, The Nature Conservancy, the Oregon Department of Forestry, and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The Oregon Zoo is a service of Metro and is dedicated to its mission of inspiring the community to create a better future for wildlife. Committed to conservation, the zoo is currently working to save endangered California condors, Columbia Basin pygmy rabbits, Oregon silverspot and Taylor’s checkerspot butterflies, Western pond turtles and Oregon spotted frogs. Other projects include studies on black rhinos, Asian elephants, polar bears and bats.
The zoo relies in part on community support through donations to the Oregon Zoo Foundation to undertake these and many other animal welfare, education and sustainability programs. The zoo is located five minutes from downtown Portland, just off Highway 26 at exit 72. The zoo is also accessible by MAX light rail line. Visitors who travel to the zoo via MAX receive $1.50 off zoo admission. Find fare and route information online or by calling TriMet Customer Service at 503-238-RIDE (7433).
General zoo admission is $10.50 (ages 12-64), $9 for seniors (65 and up), $7.50 for children (ages 3-11) and free for those 2 and younger; 25 cents of the admission price helps fund regional conservation projects through the zoo’s Future for Wildlife program. A parking fee of $4 per car is also required. Additional information is available by calling 503-226-1561.

Media contact: 

Hova Najarian | 503-220-5714 |

Kelsey Wallace | 503-220-5754 |