By Alyssa Mechler

World Wildlife Day was celebrated on March 3 this year with a focus on Forests and Livelihoods: Sustaining People and Planet. World Wildlife Day was proclaimed in 2013 to celebrate and raise awareness of the world’s wild animals and plants.

March 3 was chosen as a day of celebration, as that was the day of the signature of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in 1973. Forests play a central role in a lot of people’s lives as well as many of the earth’s plants and animals. World Wildlife Day works to promote practices that accommodate both humans, the long-term conservation of forests, and the forest-dwelling species.

Many animals here at the Lee Richardson Zoo are ambassadors to forests around the world. Forests are home to 80% of all terrestrial wildlife, from the lemurs of Madagascar to the bantengs of Asia. Each species has different adaptations to help them thrive in the forests. When visiting the lemurs, you may notice they use their hands to grip onto the branches and climb around. They can use their hands and feet to support themselves when feeding on leaves from the branches below. Lemur diets consist of plants, some fruits, and a lot of nectar. They play a big role in pollinating the plants of the forests and dispersing their seeds.

How can we help the forests of Madagascar and Asia all the way from Kansas? By shopping for sustainable products like those that have the Rainforest Alliance Certified sticker on the back. The image is of a green frog; it lets consumers know that the product’s ingredients meet the three pillars of sustainability: social, economic, and environmental.

The Rainforest Alliance Certification program evaluates farmers in all three areas before awarding or renewing their certification. The certification has benefits to both the farmers and the environment. Next time you are at the store, make sure to look for that symbol!

If you missed our World Wildlife Day celebration on our social media, you can still learn all about forest-dwelling creatures by joining us for our Spring Break Online Edventure. This will consist of lots of posts on our social media as well as three videoconferences directed at different ages. Meet some forest natives by attending a videoconference on March 18,19, or 20.

On Thursday March 18, the program will be geared towards littles, fourth grade and under. The Friday, March 19, program will feature information for fifth grade through high school, and the Saturday, March 20, program will be available to all ages! Grab your family and head on over to learn more about forest animals and how we can help conserve their homes!

Alyssa Mechler is a  zoo education specialist at Lee Richardson Zoo.