Zoo Boise charges into conservation and your vote counts

The Sumatran rhino needs your help!

The Sumatran rhino needs your help!

Here’s something we can all go ape over!

Zoo Boise is ponying up $114,000 in grants this month for world-wide species-saving conservation projects. Zoo Boise has narrowed it down to six projects. And, from now until Halloween, you can vote for your favorite.

Bet you didn’t know that some of these critters were in trouble. We’re not talking whales, dolphins or even wolves — the list includes a couple in Dorothy’s Wizard of Oz chant.

“The populations of many of our favorite animals like lions, tigers, and rhinos have declined at alarming rates,” said Steve Burns, Director of
Zoo Boise. “Within our children’s lifetimes, many of these animals could be extinct if we don’t do something.”

Burns said in the last 20 years, lion populations alone have dwindled from 200,000 to a piddling 30,000. Rhinos have been slashed by a whopping 95 percent.

It’s a sad trend Burns doesn’t want to see continue. So, three years ago, Zoo Boise began charging a “conservation fee” on top of the daily admission and annual pass fee — the first zoo in the country to do such a thing.

“We had been looking to take a more active role in conservation as a zoo,” Burns said. They looked at their resources: lots of animals — “and we’ve got a lot of people who come to look at those animals at Zoo Boise each year,” Burns said. Realizing that all conservation efforts need money, Burns hatched the idea of tacking on just a little bit to the admission fee.

“At first, it was just a quarter; now it’s 35 cents,” Burns said. But, as they say, every little bit helps and in the program’s three years, Zoo Boise has funded 14 projects around the world totaling more than $300,000.

“We are a little zoo with big ideas,” said Burns, adding that no one has complained about the extra two-bits and change.

“The conservation fee enables people who visit the Zoo to take a direct role in the conservation of animals in the wild. People say ‘not only do I get to see the animals but I get to protect those in the wild.’”

The Zoo Boise Conservation Fund will issue two other grants in addition to the programs the public picks: The College of Idaho will receive $25,000 to develop a protocol for releasing Southern Idaho Ground Squirrels back into the wild. And a $24,000 grant will be given to the American Bird Conservancy to continue to reintroduce western bluebirds back into their historical range in the San Juan Islands in Washington.

And now, the envelope please. Ladies and gentlemen, the six conservation project finalists are:

1. Oregon Spotted Frogs — Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo will breed Oregon
spotted frogs in captivity and reintroduce them into the wild.
2. Thornicroft’s Giraffes — South Luangwa Conservation Society in Zambia
will hire rangers to remove snares that harm giraffes and other wildlife
and to provide veterinary help to giraffes injured in snares.
3. Golden Lion Tamarins — the University of Maryland will work with
local people to reconnect patches of forest in Brazil that are home to
the golden lion tamarin.
4. Rainforest Animals — La MICA, a conservation organization in Panama,
will build an education/research station in the El Cope Forest.
5. Sumatran & Javan Rhinos — The International Rhino Foundation will pay
rangers to protect the highly endangered rhinos of these two Indonesian
islands.
6. Snow Leopards — The Snow Leopard Trust to work with sheepherders in
Mongolia to provide them with economic incentives to protect snow
leopards.

Vote for your favorite projects at Zoo Boise or online at
http://www.zooboise.org/home.aspx. For more information, call (208) 384-4260.

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