By Erica Rymer, Events & Marketing Specialist
Today is endangered species day, and it is important to keep in mind the important role healthy animal populations play in our environment, and the role we play in protecting and restoring them. There are more than 16,000 endangered species in the world today, and more than 1,000 of them call North America home. Loss of habitat, loss of genetic variation and poaching and trafficking are just a few of the many factors that are endangering species and bringing us closer to the sixth mass extinction event.
It all can seem a bit bleak, but there is hope. Accredited zoos and aquariums, conservation organizations, governmental agencies and individuals are working together to ensure a future for wildlife and our natural world.
Many guests are not aware of the work the Akron Zoo does behind the scenes to support conservation research, but we have several committed programs nationally and internationally. The zoo manages two citizen science programs locally, plus supports 18-20 field conservation programs annually.
We are currently involved in 45 Species Survival Plans (SSPs), which help us to monitor the health and safety of animals in human care while maintaining the genetic diversity of the species. Several of our animals have been very successful members of their SSPs, and you can read some of their stories on our website. Two of those projects include white-winged wood duck health research and conservation research on reef life in partnership with the Florida Aquarium.
Who at the Zoo?
Several of the animals found at your Akron Zoo are considered endangered or threatened species:
- Seba’s short-tailed bat
- Jamaican fruit bat
- Humboldt penguin
- Chilean flamingo
- Tawny frogmouth
- Golden lion tamarin
- African lion
- North American river otter
- Giant African millipede
- Freshwater stingray
- Silver-beaked tanager
- Partula snail
- Silver fulu - Lake Victoria cichlid
- Galapagos tortoise
- Prehensile-tailed skink
- Komodo dragon
- Madagascar teal
- White-winged wood duck
- White stork
- Andean condor
- Hyacinth macaw
- Snowy owl
- Laughing kookaburra
- Bali mynah
- Blue gray tanager
- Southern three-banded armadillo
- Ring-tailed lemur
- Red ruffed lemur
- Pygmy slow loris
- North American porcupine
- African straw-colored fruit bat
- Rodrigues flying fox
- Snow leopard
- Red wolf
Is anyone SAFE?
Because of population concerns, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) created SAFE, which stands for “Saving Animals From Extinction.” The AZA uses the power of regular people, partnered with the resources of AZA accredited facilities, to gather funding and resources and protect the world’s most vulnerable wildlife species.
The main focus of the SAFE species program is to develop a three-year plan that includes measurable field conservation, public engagement and funding objectives for the species. This plan is used to further a previously established conservation or recovery plan. The research and data gathered through this program is updated each year, so that conservation efforts are up to date.
Currently 21 species are classified as SAFE species. This includes African lions, American red wolves, jaguars, sharks and rays who can all be found at your Akron Zoo!
Well Rounded Animal Welfare
Not only does your Akron Zoo support sustaining animal populations in nature, but we are also on the front lines of sustaining genetically diverse species of animals in human care. Since 1982, we have worked with Species360, a non-profit organization driven by nearly 1,200 institutional members who facilitate information sharing through the world’s largest collection of wildlife data. To date, the Akron Zoo has been able to utilize their database, the Zoological Information Management System (ZIMS), to record previously unknown data on 3,196 individual animals from 434 species. This data helps scientists and researchers by expanding our current understanding of these species and informing future conservation decisions.
But What Can I Do?
1. Volunteer your time. Join a conservation initiative, like FrogWatch at the Akron Zoo.
2. Donate. There are several programs that rely on donations to support their conservation efforts, including AZA SAFE.
3. Visit a zoo or aquarium. Zoos and aquariums are involved in local and global conservation projects, and the cost of your admission helps them to do that work. Plus, you can learn more about many endangered species during your visit!
Just remember this endangered species day:
“In a gentle way, you can shake the world.”
― Mahatma Gandhi
And, if you have the time this weekend, stop by your Akron Zoo to support our species!