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Keeper Lauren Starkey Awarded for Excellence in Journalism

Friday, July 26, 2019 3:00:00 PM Categories: Animal News

Read her award winning article on Cans for Corridors

July 26, 2019

By Erica Rymer, Events and Marketing Specialist


The Akron Zoo is constantly being reminded of how talented the members of our staff are. Not only are they recognized by our guests, but many have also received local and national recognition for their research, work and even writing. Lauren Starkey, one or our senior keepers,  recently received an American Association of Zoo Keepers’ (AAZK) Excellence in Journalism Award for her article about Cans for Corridors, which was published in the Animal Keepers’ Forum (AKF) in September of 2018. 

The Excellence in Journalism Award recognizes five individuals each year who have written exceptional articles for the AKF. Articles are analyzed by a five member committee made up of AAZK staff and AKF column coordinators. The committee looks at the quality of writing, innovation of ideas and impact on the profession, just to name a few of the criteria. Starkey’s article highlights the Akron Zoo’s conservation campaign Cans for Corridors, and how they were able to utilize a grant to build a permanent aluminum can collection site. You can read her full article below.

Be sure to congratulate Starkey on this great honor and her wonderful writing. To order a copy of the AKF, visit their website here. To learn how to get involved in Cans for Corridors, visit the Akron Zoo's Cans for Corridors page.



Cans for Corridors: Building a Permanent Collection Site Through a Trees for You and Me Grant

September, 2018

By Lauren Starkey, Keeper


The Akron Zoo Chapter of AAZK began supporting Cans for Corridors in 2015 after attending a conference at the Durrell Wildlife Park in Jersey, United Kingdom.  Durrell originally started Cans for Corridors in 2002 and the Akron Zoo Chapter of AAZK was the first organization in the United States to participate in this conservation initiative. Cans for Corridors is a recycling-based conservation campaign where money from recycled aluminum cans is used to buy native saplings to be planted in tree corridors in Brazil. The corridors are focused on connecting the protected habitat of the Black Lion Tamarin, of which there are only an estimated 1,000 individuals left in the wild.  There are a few Black Lion Tamarins in European Zoos but there are not any in zoos in the United States, which makes their captive population also not stable.

Our AAZK Chapter first started supporting Cans for Corridors in the middle of 2015 by holding can drives every other month for our staff and volunteers only. Our staff quickly started supporting this program, so we began exploring the option of opening it up to the public. In 2016, our AAZK Chapter started advertising Cans for Corridors to the public and held monthly can drives in the Akron Zoo’s parking lot on the first Sunday of every month from 8:00am – 2:00pm. A few of our AAZK members volunteered to wait in the parking lot on those Sundays for guests to drop off cans during that time period. We then used an AAZK member's personal pickup truck to take the cans to the recycling center at the end of the day.  We noticed the public taking a big interest in Cans for Corridors, to the point that we had to make multiple trips to the recycling center on our collection days. Since people had to hold on to their cans for an entire month before dropping them off, a few people stopped supporting the program because they didn’t want to store them. Used aluminum cans can be unpleasant, so it is understandable that people would rather get rid of them when they had a full bag. It was at this point that we began exploring our options of creating a permanent collection site on zoo grounds similar to what Durrell has in their parking lot. The Trees for You and Me Grant seemed like a great option, so an application was submitted to get money for a permanent site.

The Trees for You and Me Grant Committee awarded Cans for Corridors $1,668.96 at the end of 2016 to complete our goal of building a collection site. Our Chapter approached the Zoo about this goal. They agreed to allow us to build the site in the Zoo’s parking lot and to use the Zoo's dump truck to take the cans to the recycling center. The original idea was to use the grant money to purchase a plastic shed in which the door could be modified to allow guests to drop bags into it and secure it at night. During the process of looking for a shed, the Zoo asked us to be part of their composting building that was going to house the Big Hanna composter. The Zoo received a grant through ReWorks and Ohio EPA  for the building and to purchase Big Hanna which would allow the Zoo to compost all our waste on grounds. Since there was a delay in construction of the building, our AAZK Chapter set up a temporary site by refurbishing an old shed the Zoo was no longer using. We had large trash cans lined up outside the shed for people to drop their bags into and then the cans were moved into the shed for long term storage until we had a full dump truck load. Once the composting building was completed, we purchased a stainless-steel chute that is ADA accessible so people could open the chute and drop their cans into containers inside the building. The door ended up costing a good portion of our grant money, so we built the collection containers out of pallets. Since aluminum cans are light, we didn’t need something heavy duty.  Signs for the building were purchased as well as a large supply of trash bags, marketing materials, and extra trash cans to use for ourselves and potentially to pass out to local schools.

Since adding a permanent collection site, Cans for Corridors has grown exponentially within our community. We have two local schools collecting for us and more that are interested in participating in the program next year.  Our staff and volunteers have continued to support this program as well and more of the public are getting involved. At this point we are taking in 1 – 2 dump truck loads a month. Each year the amount of money we have earned has grown as the interest in this program increases, but having a permanent site has helped to keep it growing. In 2015 we earned $720.05; in 2016 we earned $918.91; and with the addition of the permanent collection site we earned $1,117.97 in 2017. With increased marketing we have already earned $750.57 this year, which puts us ahead of last year at this time. Durrell estimates that it costs $0.75 to plant one tree. Since our AAZK Chapter started this program in 2015, we have planted 4,679 trees!!

Cans for Corridors is a great conservation initiative to support because it gives the public a chance to be directly involved in conservation. By their action of recycling we can help plant trees in another country that is helping ensure the continued survival of an endangered species. This program is also great for schools because it teaches kids the importance of recycling, how conservation works, simple math to determine how many trees they have planted, and why species are endangered. We have had other AAZK Chapters interested in starting Cans for Corridors at their zoos, but if anyone else is interested please contact Lauren Starkey at l.starkey@akronzoo.org for more information. Today when our industry is constantly under fire we need more conservation campaigns that connect everyday people to helping wild animals. Through the Trees for You and Me grant we were able to build our permanent collection site in order to continue connecting people to conservation through Cans for Corridors.