FROM ZOO TO YOU Celebrating Endangered Species Day at the zoo

By Julianne Werts

This weekend we will be celebrating Endangered Species Day at the zoo! This is a day set aside to not only celebrate endangered species that exist around the world, but also to raise awareness about them and act for their protection.

An “endangered species” is a type of animal or plant that is at risk of extinction. Essentially, their population is declining, and if we do not act to help them, they could completely disappear from the world. A major goal of zoos is to protect endangered species and ensure their survival for future generations. To accomplish this, we need your help! This is why we share information about how to help endangered species around the world.

The Lee Richardson Zoo is home to many endangered species that you can see during a visit! Three of these species can be found at the Primate Forest – Lemurs! habitat. The ring-tailed, black-and-white ruffed, and red ruffed lemurs are all listed as Endangered or Critically Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). One of the main reasons their populations are declining in the wild is due to deforestation of their habitats in Madagascar. Lemurs eat a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, and even some bugs, so they rely on the rich diversity that the rainforest has to offer.

You may think, “but what can I do about deforestation in Madagascar?” One way we can all help is by looking for Rainforest Alliance Certified vanilla and other similar products! This organization works with local farmers to help them grow crops, like vanilla, in a sustainable way that doesn’t destroy the surrounding forest. The next time you go shopping, look for the Rainforest Alliance logo (a green tree frog) on food and paper products!

Another endangered species you can find at the zoo is the Asian wild horse. Also called Przewalski’s Horse (pronounced shi-val-skees), this species is the world’s only true wild horse as it has never been domesticated. In 1969 this species was listed as “extinct in the wild”, with very few left in human care. Through careful breeding programs and cooperation between many different zoos around the world, there are now around 2,000 Asian wild horses in the world. All of these are descended from 14 individuals, and now close to 600 have been reintroduced to their native habitat! Their story is a great example of how we can all work together to save a species from extinction.

You can also see some of the zoo’s conservation efforts at work when you visit the rhino habitat! Black rhinos are a critically endangered species, facing threats of habitat loss and illegal hunting in the wild. Here at the zoo, we are part of the black rhino Species Survival Plan: an organized management program across many institutions, working to ensure a sustainable healthy population. We currently have a baby rhino, Ayubu, who was born on January 20th of this year!

This Friday and Saturday, we will be celebrating all of these animals and the many other endangered species that call Lee Richardson Zoo home. We will have Discovery Carts out with information about these species, Keeper Chats for the rhinos on Friday and Siamangs on Saturday, and a Story Time by the lemurs on Saturday morning. Be sure to stop by the Zoo this weekend to learn more, and follow Lee Richardson Zoo on social media to stay up to date on all of your favorite animals!

Julianne Werts is the guest engagement coordinator at Lee Richardson Zoo.