A hugely successful year with AAZK

Russell Pharr, elephant keeper and president of the American Association of Zookeepers Dallas chapter, guest blogs on ZooHoo!

IMG_6203 SFRTwenty-sixteen was a very successful year for the Dallas American Association of Zookeepers Chapter!  We hosted a huge range of great events and, while having an amazing time, helped make the world a better place for animals.

Join us as we take a look back at 2016:

Bowling and Sailing for Rhinos

IMG_6113 SFRThis was our 25th year participating in the 26-year-old Bowling for Rhinos program, and our fifth year partnering with Alley Cats in Arlington.  In addition to bowling, arcade games, miniature golf, and laser tag, we debuted a BFR photo booth, had a bowling pin decorating contest for the second consecutive year, and hosted our first-ever takeover on Dallas Zoo’s Facebook to help promote the event!

Most importantly, Bowling for Rhinos in Dallas raised $18,000 – 100% of which goes directly to save rhinos, cheetahs, and other animals in Kenya and Indonesia. Nationally, AAZK chapters in the U.S. and Canada raised over $600,000 – an all-time record!

Our one-of-a-kind Sailing for Rhinos event raised $6,000 to help AAZK causes. We continued our partnership with Corinthian Sailing Club and had great weather once again for one of our favorite events.

Labor Day Book Sale

Our annual book sale broke records this year, raising more than $2,000 over three days of selling used books, DVDs, and other items donated by the Dallas Zoo community. Profits were split between the Okapi Conservation Project (the okapi was our 2016 “featured animal,” decided by a staff vote in our second annual AAZK March Madness contest) and the Bat World Sanctuary in Weatherford, Texas. Our book sale continued a partnership between Dallas AAZK and the Zoo’s Enrichment Committee as we sold animal-painted magnets and bookmarks, and allowed us the perfect platform to introduce tote bags with our chapter logo printed on them!

Painting with a TwistOther Conservation Events

Our first-ever painting event, the Painting With a Twist for World Giraffe Day in June, not only raised $1,300 for the Giraffe Conservation Foundation, but also provided a fun way to honor the memory of Dallas Zoo’s own, late Kipenzi.

Our first-ever Salamander Saturday event in May helped raise funds and awareness for some of nature’s less-appreciated creatures. Our contributed funds also helped the Foundation for Conservation of Salamanders to offer a Texas-specific grant for researchers working on salamanders (and we have some amazing endemic species here)!

Holiday Spirit

We love celebrating holidays, and making sure that dedicated Zoo employees who have to work on holidays feel appreciated for doing so. We again hosted annual holiday celebrations, including our Valentine’s Day candy-grams event, a Halloween chili cook-off and pumpkin carving contest, as well as Thanksgiving and Christmas staff lunches.

IMG_0041 BFR Chimalsi African Crested Porcupine CSHappy Hours and Partnerships

We are proud to partner with several local establishments that not only offer Zoo staff a fun place to go and a good time away from work, but which also generously give back portions of their profits to Dallas AAZK, which is then used for conservation or keeper professional development.

In 2016, we partnered twice with Craft & Growler in Fair Park, once for a happy hour and once for our holiday party. We also partnered over a long weekend with Bishop Arts District establishment The Local Oak, and hosted a happy hour during National Zookeeper Week at La Calle Doce.

Professional Development                     

AAZK is about more than just raising money! AAZK is also active in keeper professional development, and nowhere is that more evident than in the annual AAZK National Conference.  In 2016, Dallas AAZK sent three keepers to the national conference in Memphis, where for a week they added skills and knowledge and made invaluable professional contacts. We also sold Dallas Chapter swag at the conference’s Member Marketplace to get keepers all around the country decked out with Dallas Chapter gear. The 2017 National Conference is set for Washington, D.C. – think about attending!

Looking Ahead

Clearly, 2016 was a great year – but we’re expecting even better things in 2017!  We will be debuting new events or adding new wrinkles to existing events (including one big one), so keep your eyes open!  We will also have some new and improved chapter swag to roll out.  Our favorite event, Sailing for Rhinos, will be getting a new name – the De McCombs Memorial Sailing for Rhinos, to honor SFR’s late founder.  We hope you’ll join us for part or all of our journey in this new year! If you have any questions about AAZK, or would like to join (anyone is welcome!), please don’t hesitate to email us at dallaszooaazk@dallaszoo.com.

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