Volunteers

 
 

Local organization gives back to the Zoo

Fidelity Investment volunteers building the playhouse for the Lacerte Family Children’s Zoo

May 2 was Fidelity Cares Day! This annual day is all about volunteering with more than 7,000 Fidelity Investments employees giving back to local communities around the world on a single day. Almost 400 volunteers from Fidelity Investments helped with this mission of serving our community, and over 80 of them came out to the Zoo!

Multiple projects were kicked off at both the Zoo and at Fidelity’s campus. The first one was actually started by our animals. As a form of enrichment, multiple animals painted on small canvases to help stimulate their minds and bodies. Well, we turned those canvases into magnets. Fidelity volunteers painted the edges of the canvases, added an information label, and adhered magnets to the backs! There were 1,000 magnets created in total, and they will all be for sale soon at our Zoofari Market.

Volunteers also built a playhouse for the Lacerte Family Children’s Zoo. Using pre-cut lumber, Fidelity employees led a team of volunteers through constructing and painting a playhouse for young Zoo guests to use their imaginations even further in play areas. Twenty-five volunteers spent 100 combined total hours building this structure for kids of all ages to enjoy.

The last project was a combined effort of Zoo and Fidelity volunteers. People on both Zoo grounds and on Fidelity’s campus worked on making faux log browse feeders. Browse are used in animal habitats to encourage them to use their natural behaviors and instincts to search for food. Volunteers distressed PVC pipes using sandpaper and rasps; added bolts to help hang the pipe; and used oil-based paint to make the pipe look like a log or a tree branch. Different types of browse will be put in the pipes before they are attached to real trees in various animal exhibits. After 85 volunteers spent a combined total of 42.5 hours, we now have 70 faux log browse feeders for the animals to enjoy.

“The Fidelity volunteers were awesome,” Julie Bates, director of volunteer services, said. “I am always amazed and inspired by hard working volunteers who give their time to help us create a better world for animals. A lot was accomplished thanks to them!”

None of the day’s accomplishments would have been possible if it were not for the Fidelity volunteers. They all spent a total of 837.5 hours working on all these projects to benefit the community and the Zoo. Thank you, Fidelity Investments! We’re already looking forward to next year’s Fidelity Cares Day!

Categories: Children's Zoo (Lacerte Family), Events, Volunteers | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment
 
 

A Swingin’ Success for Chimp Conservation

Conservation and Community Engangement Intern Alicia Moreau guest-blogs about Chimpanzee Action Awareness Week on Zoohoo! 

As we wrap-up our “Swing Break” Saving Chimps Week, we can’t believe what an extraordinary, record-setting time it was. Our community’s passion for wildlife conservation is truly amazing. We had an awesome week with beautiful weather and a Zoo full of people, hitting a spring break record of 103,000 guests visiting us in nine days!

Volunteers and interns started the month with ambitious plans for chimp conservation. Our goal was to raise $14,000 for the Jane Goodall Institute, collect 3,000 personal pledges for conservation action, and receive 300 recycled mobile phones. We set up booths in the Zoo and at various off-site events to help reach these goals.

A little boy gets up close and personal with chimp Missy.

After spreading awareness about the importance of recycling cell phones and paper products, 223 phones were donated—just shy of our initial target. However, we surpassed our pledge goal by getting 3,980 total personal pledges for pro-environmental behavior that will benefit chimps and other forest-dwelling animals.

Finally, after selling custom-made chimp conservation T-shirts, wristbands, art pieces, and various other items, it gives me great pleasure to announce that we hit our financial goal of $14,000 to care for two orphaned chimps rescued from the bushmeat and illegal wildlife trade! This money ensures that the two chimps will be well-taken care of for at least one year in a Jane Goodall Institute sanctuary in South Africa.

We could not have done it without everyone’s continued support. Thank you to all of our guests, staff, and off-site friends (Deep Ellum Brewing Company, Kendra Scott West Village, Summit Dallas, Starbucks Cedar Hill, and Lilly Pulitzer)! Our collective commitment to conservation shows how much we can accomplish when we all work together for the greater good of our beloved animals.

Categories: Conservation, Volunteers | Tags: , , | Leave a comment
 
 

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!

Categories: Birds, Conservation, Education, Volunteers | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Save the vaquita: Near extinct porpoise needs help fast

Dallas Zoo’s conservation intern Heaven Tharp guest-blogs on ZooHoo!

The vaquita porpoise is the world’s most endangered marine mammal — there’s fewer than 30 left. But I bet you didn’t know that.

The Dallas Zoo, along with AZA SAFE (Saving Animals From Extinction), is supporting a heroic $1 million emergency rescue plan to save the vaquita. This weekend, July 14-16, we’re raising awareness and money with a Save the Vaquita Weekend Beach Party.

The vaquita is the ocean’s smallest cetacean, only reaching up to 5 feet in length and weighing about 120 pounds. That’s about as big as an average 13-year-old boy. They’re best known for the unique black ring around each eye, and black curved lips that are often described as a smile. Vaquitas have the most restricted range of any marine mammal — they’re only found in the northern Gulf of California, also known as the Sea of Cortez.

Photo of a vaquita caught in a gillnet by NOAA Fisheries West Coast

This small porpoise wasn’t discovered until 1958, and sadly, a half century later, it’s on the verge of extinction. Vaquitas are continuously caught in the cross fires of fishermen fishing for totoaba; it’s a critically endangered fish that’s in high demand across China because their swim bladder is considered a delicacy. For vaquitas, the biggest problem is the fishing gear itself. Gillnets cause accidental trapping, and it’s leading to their demise. Just last month, Mexico placed a permanent ban on the use of gillnets in the northern Gulf of California. Unfortunately, illegal fishing with these nets is still a huge problem.

This weekend, we invite you to join us in taking immediate action to save the remaining 30 vaquitas. Spearheaded by a committee of interns and volunteers passionate about this species, Dallas Zoo’s Save the Vaquita Beach Party kicks off Friday, July 14, on Cat Green. From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day (with extended hours until 8 p.m. during Saturday’s final Safari Nights concert) we’ll have children’s beach games, a bounce house, and face-painting on Cat Green in ZooNorth. The party and games are free with Zoo admission (bounce house and face painting are $5 each). And donations to Vaquita SAFE are appreciated!

Also, visit the Lacerte Family Children’s Zoo Discovery House and write a note of encouragement to the vaquita conservation heroes on the front lines. We’ll be sure to mail it to them!

You can also purchase a specially designed “Save the Vaquita” t-shirt ($15), stickers ($2), or a limited-edition wristband ($5). A $20 donation gets you all three! There will also be unique handmade vaquita-themed merchandise for sale, and we’ll all have a lot of beach party fun.

You can also help the vaquita by:

  • Choosing to buy sustainable seafood.
  • Spreading the word: tell five people about why the vaquita needs our help!
  • Donating to the Dallas Zoo’s “Save the Vaquita” effort. We’ll send all money raised directly to Vaquita SAFE to save this marine mammal from extinction.

We look forward to seeing you — let’s party #4aPorpoise!

Categories: Conservation, Education, Events, Volunteers | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Snoozing in the sand: Studying elephant sleep habits

 

Coordinator of Animal Behavior Science Nancy Scott guest-blogs on ZooHoo! about a study conducted on our elephants’ sleep habits and behaviors.

Sometimes we can’t sleep the night before Christmas or before a big test. Whether it’s something exciting or scary, big events can affect how well we sleep at night.

The same goes for animals, too. When the Dallas Zoo rescued elephants from Swaziland last spring, we really wanted to confirm they felt comfortable enough in their new environment to sleep well at night.

Our first step was to see how many hours our longtime residents, the “Golden Girls,” were sleeping at night, so we could compare the groups. The thing is, I like to sleep as much as the next person, so how were we going to keep track of elephants sleeping while we were sleeping, too?

Technology to the rescue! We used video cameras in the elephant barns to record what the elephants did at night, and then reviewed the footage the next day… while we were awake.

Although elephants can doze standing up – sometimes even while leaning against a rock or using their trunk as a fifth limb for balance – they’re most relaxed when lying on their sides.

“The most surprising thing to me was that elephants lay down to sleep,” said research volunteer Becca Dyer. “I thought that, because of predators, they slept standing.”

For this study, we wanted to know how much time the elephants were lying down and getting the very best sleep.

Our observations of the Golden Girls told us Jenny likes to go to bed around 10-11 p.m., while the other three females are usually asleep by midnight. And just like you may have to get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom or raid the fridge, the elephants don’t sleep through the night, either. They usually get up three or four times a night, sometimes changing sides, or location.

“When Gypsy finally goes to sleep, Jenny will bug her until she wakes up … and then lay down in her spot! Gypsy doesn’t seem to mind. What a friendship!” research volunteer Jill Donaldson said.

While volunteering as a Base Camp ambassador, Jill has seen the elephants using sand to dust themselves in the Savanna – especially after a good mud wallow – but she didn’t realize they also use the sand piles as a pillow. The keepers often see imprints of the elephants’ skin in the sand piles in the mornings.

Our elephants tend to sleep on their sides, much like humans do

The elephants rescued from drought-stricken Swaziland seemed very comfortable their very first night in their new home at the Dallas Zoo, according to our observations from just about a year ago. There was plenty of sand for pillows, and they certainly took advantage of it. Feeling relaxed in their new home, the rescued adults slept just as long as our resident Golden Girls – about 3-4 hours per night.

We quickly learned their personalities from the overnight video. Our bull, Tendaji, likes to sprawl out with his legs in front of him and will sometimes be on his side with his eyes still open, trying to eat hay while he’s lying down.

Nolwazi tends to go face-first into the sand when she beds down. Research volunteer Julie Evans (who can also be found in the Gorilla Research Station or Base Camp when she’s not observing sleeping elephants) remembers a favorite moment when “Nolwazi raised her head to check that her daughter, Amahle, was sleeping peacefully, then Nolwazi put her head back down.” A typical youngster, Amahle sleeps longer than the adults, resting around 4-5 hours each night.

Donaldson wasn’t sure if watching sleeping elephants would be interesting when she first signed up to help, “… but no way am I bored. They are all fascinating!” she said.

After calf Ajabu was born last May, we learned a lot about baby elephant sleep patterns, too. He loves to climb all over his mom just as she’s trying to get some much-needed shuteye for herself (sound familiar, parents?).

“If all else fails, he’ll curl up under her chin and sleep a little longer,” said research volunteer and Base Camp ambassador Barbara van Pelt.

Ajabu takes more than a dozen naps each night (for a total of 6-7 hours of rest) when he’s not pestering his mom, playing with Amahle, or practicing his balance skills on a log. While Jill and Barbara are impressed by his perseverance, Rhonda loves watching him for his tightrope skills. You may have seen him practicing in the habitat by climbing rocks.

Our volunteers contributed an average of 20 hours a week over the past 14 months on this important project.

“It’s a great group of people who volunteer for the study, and we enjoy sharing our thoughts about what we see,” said Barbara. When asked why she likes to help with this study, Julie said, “Why? Because research is my passion!”

I couldn’t agree more.

Interested in volunteering opportunities? Contact Volunteers@DallasZoo.com

Categories: Africa, Elephant, Volunteers | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

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