Dallas Zoo proudly restores habitat for endangered birds

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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Dallas Zoo’s holiday gift guide


Shopping for that special someone who has everything? Fret no more. The Dallas Zoo has unique and special gifts that are guaranteed to surprise and delight the hardest person to shop for.

Hippo habitat brick

Give the gift that lasts forever with a commemorative hippo brick. The Simmons Hippo Outpost opens this spring and you can leave your permanent mark on the exhibit with a custom-engraved brick. Prices begin at $500 and can include up to 108 characters of engraved text to honor your friend or family. Your purchase also includes an invitation to a special opening event. Buy your brick now!

Photo Safaris

sl_photosafari2017The amateur photographer in your life needs a special Dallas Zoo Photo Safari! Join staff photographer Cathy Burkey for one of our special programs tailored to photography enthusiasts. We have sessions for every interest: group or private Photo Safaris, and overnight Photo Safaris that include dinner, breakfast and sleeping accommodations on Zoo grounds. Click here to register for a Photo Safari or contact Cathy Burkey at Cathy.Burkey@DallasZoo.com for more details.


Does your family love learning, animals and fun activities? (Please say yes!) A Dallas Zoo membership may be the perfect gift for your family. Memberships start at $89 and always includes free parking, free admission, a free subscription to our member magazine and discounts at our restaurants and gift shop. Buy your gift membership now!


Celebrate a passion for wildlife and give the gift of animal adoption at the Dallas Zoo. Baby elephant Ajabu is this month’s special feature! Your support helps provide habitat, lifestyle and environmental enhancements for the animals in our care.  Each adoption includes a personalized certificate, zookeeper’s report and an invitation to a special event at the Zoo. Pick an animal to adopt now!

camps-giftguideSpecial Zoo experience

Give the gift of a memorable experience for the special youngster in your life. Special programs like the Junior Rancher Adventure, Snowfari Winter Camp, overnight programs, or Family Zoo Adventures give kids young and old experiences unlike any other.

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Dallas Zoo partners with SPCA of Texas to create a better world for all animals


You may often hear the Dallas Zoo advocate for declining species on faraway continents, but this past weekend we partnered with SPCA of Texas to help our four-legged friends right here in our backyard.

With SPCA of Texas’ surgery vehicle setup in our East parking lot, we’re proud to share our spay and neuter weekend succeeded in helping dozens of dogs and cats in our neighborhood. Nearly 40 pets from three underserved ZIP codes in South Dallas received a free spay or neuter, 45 pets were vaccinated, and an additional 45 animals were signed up for surgery in the near future. As a bonus, people who brought their pets in for services also received free tickets to the Zoo!

“When it comes to animals, it’s not just wildlife that we’re passionate about,” said Sean Greene, Dallas Zoo’s vice president of Guest Experiences. “We care about all animals, and partnering with a great organization like the SPCA of Texas is a wonderful opportunity for us to help our community. We are happy to play a role in efforts that create a better world for animals.”

SPCA of Texas is widely known for helping pets find loving homes and providing them with exceptional care. It’s estimated that just in the three ZIP codes SPCA of Texas focused on for this event, more than 17,000 dogs and 23,000 cats are not spayed or neutered. This weekend made a direct difference in helping our surrounding pet population stay healthy._mg_6309-6x6

“The SPCA of Texas is pleased to have partnered with the Dallas Zoo this past weekend as we brought out our brand new Mobile Spay/Neuter Vehicle to provide free surgeries and vaccinations to our community,” said Maura Davies, SPCA of Texas’ vice president of Communications. “Parking our mobile clinic at the Zoo benefited people and pets alike, as the ability to take this clinic on the road makes it easy for people to provide these critical services to their pets, ensure a healthy community, and prevent pet overpopulation. Thanks to the Dallas Zoo for partnering with the SPCA of Texas to help make our community a great place for pets and people!”

With an incredibly successful weekend and a positive response from local residents, this is certainly the beginning of a meaningful partnership with the SPCA of Texas that’ll continue to serve our community and its animals.

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2016 Feather, Fur and Scales photography contest winners

As the Zoo’s staff photographer, one of my favorite events of the year is our Feathers, Fur and Scales Photography Contest. For thirteen years, I’ve had the pleasure of viewing some of the most incredible photos of our residents. With 120 photo submissions in our three categories, youth, teen, and adult, our judges were hard-pressed to declare winners this year with the sheer amount of artistic talent. Our judges included Richards Group Creative Director Gary Gibson, Getty Images photographer Romilly Lockyer, and Collin College photography instructor Anna Fritzel.

We honored our winners and their guests with an awards luncheon at the Zoo, where they also received their prizes. We even had a winner enter all the way from Newhall, Iowa! Thank you all so much for your submissions. Your photography inspires us, and teaches the world to care about threatened and endangered animals.

Below are the 13th annual Feathers, Fur and Scales winning entries in each category. Cheers!

Grand Prize: Shawna Hinkel
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Dallas Zoo’s gun ban upheld by Texas attorney general

The Office of the Attorney General of Texas has upheld our policy barring weapons on our grounds, rejecting a citizen complaint filed last fall.

The Attorney General determined that the policy does not violate Texas law, ruling that the Dallas Zoo “meets all requirements to qualify as an amusement park,” which are legally allowed to prohibit weapons. As a privately-operated, non-profit zoo, we have controlled access, security guards on-site, and rides that are inspected annually by the state Department of Insurance.

In a letter to the zoo dated March 30, 2016, the Attorney General’s Office said it has closed the complaint.

“We’re heartened that the Attorney General realizes that our zoo, which is visited by more than 1 million people each year, isn’t the place for weapons,” said Gregg Hudson, CEO and president of the Dallas Zoo. “The vast majority of our guests are families with children, and they have strongly supported us on this issue.”

Penal Code section 30.06 and 30.07 signs are posted at each zoo entrance, explaining that handguns, concealed and open-carried, are prohibited.

We have both Dallas Police Department officers and a private security firm on grounds daily. In addition, our staff is trained by the Dallas Police Department to respond to issues related to animals.

“The safety and security of our guests is of utmost importance to us, and always will be,” Hudson said.

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