What do you think of when conservation comes to mind? Is it merely a pleasant but abstract concept, or is it something that you do externally such as attending your Zoo and participating in the giraffe feed? Is it something you do daily at a more personal level, such as using less single-use plastic or recycling your bottles and towel rolls, taking shorter showers, or carpooling to work? If your conservation actions in the larger community and in aspects of your personal life overlap, then you’re taking a step in a common, meaningful, and impactful direction.
Start At the Zoo
The issue of conservation is complex and it permeates everything we do. Every day and every action at The Reid Park Zoo is designed to educate the public by exhibiting concrete conservation measures. As members of an AZA-certified zoo , the staff at Tucson’s Zoo realizes that all animals in their care (those visible to you in their habitats, as well as the ones behind the scenes who sometimes appear with an educator on Zoo grounds or travel out into the community to delight Tucsonans and advocate for conservation) are ambassadors for their species. These animal ambassadors enable staff to not only study animal behavior; they also allow their caretakers and the public to study them in order to bolster animal diversity and preserve the ecosystems they are part of.
In addition to supporting conservation funds, your zoo experience envelops you in the ‘4R’ concepts of Reduce Reuse, Refuse, and Recycle. ‘Reduce’ the amount of waste you generate; ‘Reuse’ as many recyclable products as possible; ‘Refuse’ the usage of single-use products such as plastic straws; and ‘Recycle’ items that are eligible for recycling.
There are apps that can be downloaded to your smart phone to support conservation measures endorsed by Reid Park Zoo such as Seafood Watch, which allows you to learn about sustainable fishing practices and support these in your own shopping. Cheyenne Mountain Zoo has created an app to help you learn about and support sustainable palm oil practices by identifying the source of palm oil used in commonly- purchased grocery items. About palm oil – it seems to be everywhere, but it has an outsized impact on wildlife conservation when it’s not produced sustainably. Specifically, orangutans are a vulnerable species because of unsustainable palm oil practices, but they’re not the only ones. Palm oil agricultural practices (and habitat loss) are central to the plight of tigers, who are critically endangered.
Reid Park Zoo has been lucky to host conservation enthusiasts such as Dr. Laurie Marker of ‘The Cheetah Conservation Fund ; Joel Sartori , an avid photographer whose ‘Photo Ark’ project is seeking to document the world’s animals in an attempt to foster awe and support for animal diversification; and The Anteaters and Highways project run by Dr. Arnaud Desbiez , a project which gets financial support from the Reid Park Zoo. By the way, on Dr. Desbiez’s more recent visit to Tucson’s zoo, where he offered presentations about his amazing project in Brazil, he noted how large and well-fed the Zoo’s Giant Anteaters are; this is great news, because this pair has a breeding recommendation and are being slowly re-introduced to one another this very summer!
These are only a few of the in situ conservation projects and professionals that our Zoo supports. You can see a more comprehensive list of the Reid Park Zoo’s conservation partners on their website (https://reidparkzoo.org/conservation/partners/). And when the Reid Park Zoo expansion is complete, they will be actively engaged in more such projects, particularly on behalf of two critically endangered species, the Malayan Tigers and Rodrigues Fruit Bats. Through their own research and close care, they will also be supporting threatened species such as Siamang Gibbons, Red Pandas, and Komodo Dragons.
For a list of 50 Personal conservation measures, please check out this site . Evidence shows that conservation permeates everything we do. No effort is too small to make a difference!
Want to help? Visit the Reid Park Zoo, or another AZA-accredited institution – a portion of your admission will be supporting conservation, every time. By the way, it’s important to determine whether a zoo or aquarium has earned AZA accreditation, because only about 10% of zoos and aquariums in the U.S. meet the high standards to earn this designation. You want to be sure you’re supporting only the best in animal care and commitment to conservation.
At home, learn about and begin to practice the 4Rs! Load an app or two on your phone. If you can, send a donation to a conservation organization – there are so many established and reputable ones – that work to safeguard a species or an environment that you care about.