Author Archives: Lauren Lombardo

Take action for wildlife we love

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_MG_7072The Dallas Zoo’s annual We ❤️️ Wildlife event celebrated a different kind of love. Members and guests showed their appreciation for animals, keepers, and conservationists with valentines created at stations across the Zoo. Guests then delivered these cards during keeper talks as a welcomed sign of gratitude for the amazing staff members and animal residents that make the Zoo such a special place. Visitors even crafted cards to be sent to our conservation partners around the world, who contribute to the protection of animals and their habitats. We received hundreds of valentines – talk about feeling the love!

Over 3,000 people took conservation pledges inspired by an array of animals, pushing us even closer to our goal of 30,000 pledges this year!_MG_7292 Families committed to making small changes in their everyday lives in order to practice more sustainable actions that will keep our animal friends safe and healthy. The tiger-inspired pledge to “support companies committed to deforestation-free palm oil and choose FSC certified wood products” received the greatest number of commitments. Plus, an amazing 450 conservation bracelets were purchased with all proceeds directly benefiting the animals they represent.

We had a wonderful weekend and would like to thank everyone who joined us, showing their love and support for wildlife. Our staff and keepers dedicate their lives towards species survival and conservation efforts. Together, through minor, but important, commitments each and every day, we can prevent extinction and help endangered animals flourish once again.

Couldn’t make it out to the Zoo for We ❤️️ Wildlife Weekend? Take a conservation pledge and commit to make small changes at home that will lead to big differences in the wild:

CONSERVATION PLEDGES:_MG_7169

We ❤️️ Gorillas

Our Pledge to Protect Gorillas:

We ❤️️ Elephants

Our Pledge to Protect Elephants:

 We ❤️️ Giraffes

Our Pledge Inspired by Giraffe:

  • We’ll respect & protect native wildlife.
  • We’ll restore wildlife habitat.

We ❤️️ Penguins

Our Pledge to Protect Penguins:

We ❤️️ Wildlife

Our Pledge to Protect Wildlife:

  • We’ll pick up 10 pieces of litter pollution every Tuesday.
  • We’ll use reusable grocery bags.

We ❤️️ Tigers

Our Pledge to Protect Tigers:

We ❤️️ Horned Lizards

Our Pledge to Protect Texas Horned Lizards:

We ❤️️ Flamingos

Our Pledge to Protect Flamingos:

  • We’ll use reusable grocery bags.
  • We’ll pick up 10 pieces of litter pollution every Tuesday.
Categories: Conservation, Education | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Random Acts of Kindness to the Earth

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It’s National Random Acts of Kindness Day! While most think of this celebration as a chance to make a stranger’s day, we have a different type of kindness in mind. At the Dallas Zoo, we take pride in doing our part in protect the natural world, and thought it only appropriate to take some time to show our appreciation for the third rock from the sun. Although today may be Random Acts of Kindness Day, we challenge you to complete these simple actions below to show Mother Nature a little compassion year round.

Wildlife and nature go hand in hand. Habit loss and pollution are two of the leading causes of animal extinction and endangerment. Every 20 minutes, we lose at least one animal or plant species. Nearly 240 acres of wildlife habitat are destroyed every hour. If our actions go unchecked, 20% of the millions of species that exist could be extinct within the next 30 years – an unprecedented rate. It’s up to us to work together and make changes that promote sustainable actions in our everyday lives. With nearly 9 billion people projected to inhabit the Earth by 2050, these changes need to start now before our animal friends and their habitats are gone forever.

Select one (or five) of the following actions suggested by our friends at Reverse Litter and show Mother Earth you care by doing it today, and always:

  • Plant a tree. Trees give us oxygen, store carbon, stabilize the soil and give life to the world’s wildlife. They also provide us with materials DebTreesKids to create tools and shelter.
  • Recycle plastic bottles. Most plastic jugs and bottles are 100 percent recyclable. The City of Fort Worth offers a curbside recycling service that citizens can use to help reduce waste in our environment. You can also use a site like Earth 911’s Recycle Center to locate the closest recycling facility near you.
  • Shut off the water when brushing your teeth. You can save up to 8 gallons of water every day by turning off the tap while brushing your teeth.
  • Return your plastic grocery bags to the store’s recycling bin. The recycling bins are usually located at the entrance of the store. If you are pressed for time, sites like abagslife.com make it easy to locate the nearest plastic bag recycling bin near you.
  • Reuse disposable household items like newspapers, glass bottles, jars, plastic containers and paper bags. This will reduce your trash waste and make Mother Nature smile.Ink Cartridge and Other Recycling at ESC

Need some inspiration? Here’s a little food for thought as you go about your day!

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
—Margaret Mead

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Dallas Zoo proudly restores habitat for endangered birds

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Dean of Dallas Zoo’s Wild Earth Academy, Ben Jones, guest blogs on ZooHoo!

Dallas Zoo’s Wild Earth Action Team returned to the Big Thicket National Preserve to plant longleaf pines with the National Park Service. Our team of 15 students and five adults helped reforest 300 acres of habitat for the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker. These students are Dallas Zoo youth volunteers from cities across our region, and they are passionate and committed to helping animals in every way they can. Many have already invested over 100 hours in wildlife conservation through service as Junior Zookeepers and Conservation Guides in the Lacerte Family Children’s Zoo.

The Big Thicket National Preserve set a goal of planting 100,000 trees in honor of the National Park Service’s 100th birthday. We’re proud to say we helped them exceed their goal with our 11,000 contribution in 2016, and the additional 10,000 trees planted this month. Dallas Zoo is proud to partner with the conservation heroes of the National Park Service.

Photo of a red-cockaded woodpecker by Holly Dolezalik.

Photo of a red-cockaded woodpecker by Holly Dolezalik.

One of the most important reasons we’re helping plant these trees is to restore habitat for the red-cockaded woodpecker. We have already lost America’s two largest woodpecker species, the ivory-billed woodpecker and the imperial woodpecker, to extinction due to rampant and unregulated logging. By the 1950s, they were gone. Some of the last photos of the ivory-billed woodpeckers were taken in 1938 as the population collapsed. You can see the only known videos of the imperial woodpecker here and here.

By restoring wildlife habitat, we are making conservation history with the hope of avoiding another woodpecker extinction. Red-cockaded woodpeckers were listed as endangered in 1970. Since 1988, they’ve been moved from threatened to vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, but there’s still plenty of work to do. No strategy to save animals is complete without a focus on habitat loss and the work to restore it.

The red-cockaded woodpecker is a small bird without brilliant plumage or spectacular display, but with a social system as complex as any North American animal, more like a primate than a bird. Like all woodpeckers, red-cockadeds are primary excavators creating cavities that form the foundation of the habitat web. This woodpecker creates shelter for more than 27 vertebrate species.

Volunteer Lilly has vowed to return to the Big Thicket when she's 93 years old to see the trees' growth.

Volunteer Lily has vowed to return to the Big Thicket when she’s 93 years old to see the trees’ growth.

These birds primarily rely on old-growth, longleaf pines for shelter, nesting, and food. This means that even though we’re working hard to get these trees planted, it could be up to 80 years down the road before they’re move-in ready for these birds. Wildlife conservation is long-term investment and demonstrated faith in the future! Our 13-year-old volunteer Lilly Zimmermann promised she’d return when she’s 93 to admire our planting work and remember our trip fondly.

Over 90 million acres of longleaf pine forest once stretched across the American south, but they’re pretty rare today. Beginning in 1940, vast areas of public and private land were converted to short-rotation forestry and now less than 10,000 acres of old-growth, longleaf pine remain. Restoring habitat is the most important action we can take to create a better world for this animal.

At the Dallas Zoo, we care deeply for animals and we know our members, guests, and volunteers do, too. Every forest protected, every waterway restored, every endangered species saved begins with us. Every action counts. Thanks for supporting us in all we do to create a better world for animals.

Join us on our next Wild Earth Action Team expedition on March 3 – 5 for a once in a lifetime opportunity at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge and the Texas State Aquarium in Corpus Christi. It’ll be a weekend filled with conservation action, and saving whooping cranes.

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Teen Science Café proves science is cool at Dallas Zoo

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Ninth grader Ronak Dhingra, and Teen Science Café teen leader, guest-blogs on ZooHoo!tsc_logo

The Teen Science Café Network, founded by the National Science Foundation, is a national organization that aims to get teens passionate and excited about science at an early age, with the hope they will consider a STEM career. Why teens? We are the next generation of the workforce and the future of society.

According to the STEM advocacy group Change the Equation, only 36 percent of all high school graduates are ready to take a college-level science course. Our cafés bring science to life by people who love it and experience it everyday – real scientists. These scientists share what is fun about what they do (without using any jargon). Our hope is to shift some perspectives and get teens to see that maybe they do like science even though they may not enjoy it at school.

The Dallas Zoo Teen Science Café was started last summer. We selected the Dallas Zoo to host because of its reputation as a leading zoo in the nation, and its many programs geared towards children. I felt, as a former Dallas Zoo Youth Volunteer, that the Zoo would be a great sponsor for a Teen Science Café.

humboldt-penguins

Humboldt penguins along the Peruvian coast during Dr. Patty McGill’s last trip in Jan. 2016. Photo credit: Austin McKahan, Kansas City Zoo digital marketing manager

Dallas Zoo’s vice president of Conservation and Education, Dr. Patty McGill, kicked off our first-ever café. She has a cool job that includes traveling up and down the Chilean and Peruvian coasts counting and studying Humboldt penguins. She led the audience in a series of activities in which we had to look at a picture of many birds from afar and estimate how many penguins there were. This may seem easy, but it gets hard when there are many black and white birds standing in a crowd!  It was also very cool to walk through the Zoo at night when nobody else is there.

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Dr. Patty McGill (far right), and Dallas Zoo Director of Education, Marti Copeland, pose with teen leader, Ronak Dhingra, and other café members.

Our second café featured Professor John Sibert from the University of Texas at Dallas who spoke about “The Mighty Atom: From Discovery to Molecular Architecture.” He demonstrated how molecular architecture was connected to the building we were sitting in. He also had us make our own spectroscopes, which are instruments that allow us to identify elements and materials using light spectrums.

When I looked through my spectroscope, I saw the element “signatures,” which were bands of color differing from one element to another in small ways. It’s amazing to think of how these relatively few building blocks make everything up.

From these cafés with amazing speakers, teens take away cool facts and knowledge about science and, most importantly, a passion for STEM.

Hey, teens, join us at one of our next cafés:

Jan. 15: Computation + Creativity: The New Literacy by Professor Greenberg (Southern Methodist University, computer science)

March 19: Professor Gonzalez (University of Texas at Dallas, biology)

April 23: Professor Ranganathan (University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, biology)

I promise these events will be fun and exciting! Hope to see you then.

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Bob Butsch: Our longest Keeper’s Aide volunteer

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“Our volunteers are simply amazing! They bring a wealth of knowledge, skill, and enthusiasm that is unmatched. We could not accomplish what we do here without them. Together, we are building a better world for animals.”

~ Julie Bates, director of Dallas Zoo’s Volunteer Services

Long before the Dallas Zoo had an organized volunteer program,_mg_5396-bob-butsch-4x6-cb Bob Butsch spent his Saturdays helping take care of various animals in the Herpetarium where our reptiles reside. For free!

As of today, he’s our longest serving Keeper’s Aide volunteer, having volunteered almost every Saturday for nearly 30 years. (Yes, three decades.) If you do the math, half a day for 50 Saturdays out of the year for 29.5 years totals 5,900 hours! That’s 245 days. Can you imagine having that under your “Volunteer” tab on your resume? Wow.

Additionally, he’s been in the Herpetarium longer than anyone, including keepers and curators. Bob began as a volunteer at the Zoo on Memorial Day weekend in 1987. On a trip to the Zoo with his wife and then 2-year-old son, he wondered about putting his master’s degree in biology to work. He called the Zoo’s Education Department, who told him they had no openings for volunteer docents (who answer guests’ questions). They directed him to the reptile department, who took him in.

He’s had a weekday job for even longer, where he does IT programming for a medical company. But he graduated with his bachelor’s in Biology and Chemistry at the University of Texas-Arlington, then went on to complete his master’s in Biology at the University of North Texas. Volunteering at the Zoo, for him, is a way to exercise his knowledge in a meaningful way.

In 1987, he started out answering guests’ questions as a docent. After his first few months, a reptile keeper took him behind the scenes to give him an impromptu “evaluation.” This simply involved seeing how well he could handle the animals. After he handled a snake with no fear, he became a Keeper’s Aide Volunteer.

In July 1991, Bob Butsch was recognized at Dallas Zoo's volunteer of the month.

In July 1991, Bob Butsch was recognized at Dallas Zoo’s volunteer of the month.

Ever since, he’s worked with various animals in the Herpetarium, including amphibians and reptiles of all kinds. He’s done every job available to volunteers for this department. While he has helped in several different ways, he still must follow the rules specific to volunteers, despite his long career of volunteering.

“As a volunteer, I’m only allowed to do certain jobs,” he said. “In the reptile department, it is very important to follow the rules, because of the dangers that are present with venomous creatures.”

Yet he’s been around on Saturdays for so long that nobody has to watch over his shoulder as he goes about his work. “It’s really flattering when I come in,” he said. “They hardly bat an eye.” That’s the ultimate sign of trust that he’ll do the job right.

He’s seen many changes at the Zoo over the years, like the fact that the Herpetarium used to be an aviary, with birds and reptiles coexisting in the same building. He’s also lived through the replacement of the entire AC unit, taking care of animals out in the lobby so they were out of the way for the workers. And construction, lots of construction, as the Zoo remodeled and improved exhibits.

So why has he continued to volunteer 50 Saturdays out of the year for 29 years? The answer is simple: “The work I do is therapeutic for me, and it’s wonderful to come work in an environment full of happy friendly people who really love what they do.”

As for us at the Zoo, we love having such a dedicated and happy volunteer helping us build a better world for animals.

For information on how you can volunteer at the Zoo, check out our Volunteer page.

Categories: Reptiles and Amphibians, Volunteers | Tags: , | 2 Comments

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