Conservation

 
 

Wild Earth Action Team: Protecting a tiny bird’s big habitat

What’s black, white and red all over? No, not a penguin with a sunburn. Try again. It’s the red-cockaded woodpecker! (The red part is actually just a small stripe on its head). Sadly, though, these little guys are nearly extinct.

But our Wild Earth Action Team (WEAT) is ensuring these birds keep pecking away for a long time. The team just wrapped their third annual trip to the Big Thicket National Preserve where they planted longleaf pines to help restore habitat for this endangered bird and other species.

For the red-cockaded woodpeckers to survive, they need to be able to safely nest – and they rely on longleaf pine forests to do that. So we’ve gotten to work, and over the past few years, the Dallas Zoo and a team of volunteers have planted more than 30,000 longleaf pines to reforest 300 acres for habitat.

“We’re thankful to all our volunteers, including the Dallas Zoo, who have played a vital role in the reforestation efforts in the Preserve,” said Jason Ginder, Park Ranger at Big Thicket National Preserve. “Re-establishing an ecosystem based on native plant communities is vital to a healthy forest. Longleaf pine trees thrive in the Southeast Texas climate, and make it ideal habitat for the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker.”

We couldn’t make these expeditions happen without our rock star community joining us to protect Texas wildlife.

“Getting the chance to go on this expedition was probably one of the most exciting things I’ve ever been able to do,” said Jon V., Dallas Zoo Conservation Guide. “It felt so amazing to participate in the active conservation process and to help restore the habitat of the endangered woodpecker, so that hopefully one day, it will be taken off the endangered species list.”

We rely on people like you to help us reach our conservation goals. One of our most ambitious goals this year is to remove ten tons of litter pollution from wildlife habitats. Help us reach this by pledging to pick up just ten pieces of litter every Tuesday. It’s that simple! Learn about the Ten on Tuesday campaign here. You can also join us on one of our Wild Earth Action Team expeditions! We head to Corpus Christi March 2-4 to restore habitat for the endangered whooping crane, plus, we’re doing a ton of cool activities. Learn more about the trip!

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Plastic water bottles and plastic bags go extinct at the Dallas Zoo

The Dallas Zoo is leaving the plastic bag and water bottle behind. In lieu of plastic, guests are encouraged to purchase canned water at all concession stands and restaurants, and use reusable bags for any Zoofari Market gift shop purchases.

Our sustainable approach means more than 113,000 plastic water bottles and 95,000 plastic bags will be saved from entering landfills and the environment each year. It’s estimated that plastic pollution kills 1.5 million marine animals annually, including one million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals, like dolphins, manatees, and seals.

“A plastic bag or bottle blowing around Dallas could very well end up in the ocean. All creeks in Dallas flow into the Trinity River, and some 700 miles later into the Gulf of Mexico,” said Ben Jones, Dean of Dallas Zoo’s Wild Earth Academy. “The Dallas Zoo is strongly committed to creating a better world for animals but it takes all of us to effect change. By reducing our use of plastics, we hope to inspire guests to make easy, positive changes at home, too, to save wildlife.”

The move to cut plastics comes with much-needed support from our food, beverage and retail partner, Service Systems Associates, Inc.

“Service Systems Associates shares a mutual vision with the Dallas Zoo to protect wildlife and wild places, and one major way we can contribute is through the reduction of single use plastics,” said Brett Taylor, Service Systems Associates, Inc. General Manager for the Dallas Zoo. “Only 10 percent of plastic bottles are recycled when compared to 50 percent of cans. Aluminum is able to be recycled over and over again. We’re excited to see how our guests respond to the notion of canned water.”

In 2017, the Dallas Zoo hit a recycling record with 101 tons of materials recycled, including 34 tons of metal; 27 tons of paperboard; 28 tons of co-mingled recycling, like plastic bottles and aluminum cans; 656 wood pallets; as well as, cell phones, electronics, printer cartridges, plastic bags and Styrofoam.

The zoo has 60 recycling bins scattered across the 106-acre park for guests to use. We also encourage guests who shop in the Zoofari Market gift shop to bring their own reusable bag, or buy a reusable bag from the gift shop, or simply decline the use of a bag.

 

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A teacher’s perspective: Working on Dallas Zoo’s Texas horned lizard project

A teacher measures the size of a wild Texas horned lizard for Dallas Zoo’s population research.

Dallas Zoo’s reptile keepers recently ended their eighth year studying the life history of Texas horned lizards on the 4,700-acre Rolling Plains Quail Research Ranch in Fisher County, Texas. By collecting lizard life history data, we hope to shed valuable light on the ecology of this threatened native Texan that is now in decline throughout much of its range. Earlier this year, Dallas-area teachers joined us for our first-ever Texas Horned Lizard Teachers Expedition. Teacher Cara Kailukaitis shares her story on ZooHoo! 

Reptile Supervisor Bradley Lawrence inserts a tag (similar to a pet microchip) into a lizard.

This summer, I had the pleasure of attending the first-ever Texas Horned Lizard Teachers Expedition offered through the Dallas Zoo. When I saw this on the website, I knew I had to attend. Twenty years ago I

did my high school senior research report on these amazing creatures. Finally being able to study these tough little lizards up close and handle them was very fulfilling.

I have always loved nature and as an informal educator I’ve tried to pass this along to homeschoolers. Working with young children is very rewarding and they often bring a smile to my face. But getting a chance to do actual field work with other professionals and teachers was a great change of pace.

Throughout the expedition weekend, I was able to do transect field studies, examine scat and tracks, and help find and take measurements on the Texas horned lizards. What the schedule failed to mention was

The research team, including Cara pictured third from right.

that we would be diving out of four wheelers and grabbing horned lizards as they tried to scurry away. It felt like I was living an episode of The Crocodile Hunter. All that was missing is the guy yelling “crikey!”

While I went to learn about the Texas horned lizard, I also had the opportunity to meet with the interns at the Rolling Plains Quail Research Ranch where the field trip was conducted. They shared a wealth of knowledge about not only the quail but other flora and fauna in the area.  Seeing their efforts put the techniques we were learning about, like transect studies, into perspective. Rather than being just an idea in a book, these techniques were brought to life in front of us. Their efforts to protect the quail have the added benefit of helping the lizards, as well.

All fun aside, I want everyone to know how important it is to reconnect with nature and preserve our environment. The ranch is an oasis in the middle of oil rigs and empty cotton fields. With 94-percent of Texas land in private ownership, it is doubly important that such places exist. Without this space, Texas horned lizards, quail, and many other indigenous species would be homeless.  While at the ranch I could envision the bison that once roamed across this land and wonder what animals will still be here in 50 years. I would love for everyone to make time for an opportunity like this to see just how interconnected we all are.

I’m so thankful for the opportunity the Dallas Zoo gave me to participate in this event and can’t wait for another field trip! A huge thank you to Colin Johnson with Dallas Zoo Education team; reptile keeper Shana Fredlake; and reptile supervisor Bradley Lawrence for making this trip possible, and the staff at the Rolling Plains Quail Research Ranch for all that you do to help protect this environment for future generations.

*If you’d like to be part of an Educator Workshop, check out all of our upcoming programs.

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A major conservation success: Welcoming scimitar-horned oryx calves

 

It’s a success story that proves when accredited zoos and conservation organizations work together, we have the power to bring animals back from extinction in the wild.

While we proudly welcome three new scimitar-horned oryx babies at the Dallas Zoo, these African antelope are finally walking their native desert again for the first time in more than 35 years.

In August 2016, the Sahara Conservation Fund and the governments of Abu Dhabi and Chad, released a small herd of 25 oryx back into Chad with GPS radio collars to keep track of the treasured animals. Thanks to zoos and other private groups, these iconic desert antelope were successfully preserved in human care, allowing a wild bounce back.

Since the initial release, two more groups have joined, and the growing herd has welcomed a few babies, showing signs of a healthy, thriving population.

And AZA-accredited zoos continue to welcome babies through the Scimitar-Horned Oryx Species Survival breeding program. So far this year, 38 calves have been born in U.S. zoos, including our three babies.

We’ve put together some highlights on our new calves who were all born to dad Berm:

  • Our first calf was born Aug. 15 to mom Rime. Named Bahira, meaning “dazzling” in Arabic, she was born weighing 17 pounds and has an extremely protective mother.

    Our calves will grow up to look like their moms pictured here (including our fourth adult female Ouadi). Their stunning, sharp-tipped horns curve all the way over their backs.

  • Our second calf arrived a day later on Aug. 16, weighing 21 pounds. Born to mom Mimolette, she was named Ara, meaning “opinionated” in Arabic, because she was very vocal during her neonatal exam.
  • Our male calf was born Aug. 21 to first-time mom Achima. Keepers gave him a very special name – Moussa, which means “Moses” in Arabic. The name is in honor of John Newby, the CEO of the Sahara Conservation Fund, and a key leader in reintroducing Scimitar-horned oryx back into the wild. In North Africa, the natives there call him Moses.

Our three calves and their moms are doing great! Ara and Bahira have been inseparable since they were introduced. The little girls often play and spar with one another, chase each other around, and snuggle up together when napping.

Since 1988, Dallas Zoo has welcomed 14 scimitar-horned oryx calves. We’re proud to contribute to the survival of this beautiful species in human care, and in the wild. Look for our new little ones soon in the Arid habitat off the Adventure Safari monorail.

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Dallas Zoo smashes attendance record for eighth straight year

 

We did it! We crushed our all-time attendance record for the eighth consecutive year with more than 1.2 MILLION guests visiting in our fiscal year that ended Sept. 30.

This now marks the third time we’ve exceeded one million visitors in our 129-year history. A huge thanks goes out to our incredible guests for helping us become one of the best AZA-accredited zoos in the nation.

As we look back on some of our accomplishments over the past year, these ones made us particularly proud:

  • We opened our $14 million Simmons Hippo Outpost.

    Our $3 conservation wristbands brought in more than $45,000 and it goes straight to global wildlife conservation projects!

  • We debuted the eye-catching National Geographic Photo Ark exhibition, featuring photographer Joel Sartore’s stunning images .
  • Safari Nights Powered by Breeze Energy brought in a record-breaking crowd!
  • Plus, we had an EPIC baby boom, welcoming loved ones like lion Bahati, giraffe Tsavo, two Somali wild asses, endangered tortoises, Caribbean flamingos, a tamandua, Southern ground hornbills and many more.
  • We donated more than $347,000 to wildlife conservation efforts across the globe.
    • More than $45,000 was raised through our conservation wristband sales.
    • And nearly $13,500 was collected by our bird show ravens in Wonders of the Wild Presented by Kimberly-Clark.
  • We welcomed 102,807 students through field trips, and 52% were from Title 1 schools.
  • We had 786 teachers participate in Dallas Zoo workshops, earning 4,625 CTE credits.
  • Our Wild Earth Action Team (WEAT) removed 7 tons of litter from Texas waterways to restore habitat for endangered sea turtles and whooping cranes.

    Bird show ravens gladly collect guests’ donation dollars at the end of each Wonders of the Wild show; they’ve gathered nearly $13,500 for conservation.

  • WEAT also planted 10,000 trees in the Big Thicket National Preserve to restore habitat for the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker.
  • WEAT inspired 32,457 guests to make personal pledges for pro-environmental behavior on behalf of animals, like conserving water, using canvas bags and reusable water bottles.

Wild places around the world our need help more than ever, and every visitor we welcome has a part in helping us create a better world for animals everywhere.

 

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