The mission of the Zoo is: “to encourage an appreciation of wildlife and inspire conservation of our natural world”. Conservation is a key element in the Zoo’s mission statement and in its activities. Conservation activities must be more than changing attitudes; it must promote action that results in positive effects on any given habitat. Changing attitudes and promoting action to make a positive impact on our environment is integrated throughout the Zoo’s programming and includes in-situ field projects, educational themes, involvement in SSP programs, public events, exhibits, research, green efforts, and collaboration with other organizations, and with government officials.
Salisbury Zoological Park’s Conservation Initiatives
The Salisbury Zoological Park is involved with a number of conservation initiatives. Our educational programs contain and highlight various environmental messages. The graphics presented throughout the Zoo help to educate our visitors about the environment and our animals. Our docent, school and outreach programs continue those messages and reach a wide audience.
The Zoo’s annual Earth Day Event brings together a number of conservation organizations to promote awareness of our environment. To celebrate this event, the day starts with the Zoo Stampede, a 5k run that begins and ends at the Zoo. The remainder of the day focuses on environmental education and highlights those activities that the visitors can do right at home. It is a wonderful and informative celebration of the planet Earth.
The annual Night of the Living Zoo Halloween event is designed to be scary but for some very serious reasons – it is our primary event for raising money to support conservation programs. A portion of the proceeds each year go towards funding researchers and organizations doing work in the field both locally and internationally. In our region, the Zoo has been able to help preserve critical habitat through the Nature Conservancy and the Lower Shore Land Trust, promote butterfly research and conservation through the Butterfly Conservation Initiative and have continued to support the much needed educational efforts of the Red Wolf Recovery Program.
On the international level, the Zoo supports field research projects that have a tie to our animal collection. Most often these projects are natural history based - collecting data on animals in the wild, or, are habitat based. Many of the supported projects are ones that are enhancing or protecting existing habitats. As with the animals in our own backyards, protecting their habitat ensures a healthy environment for them to live in. The conservation funds have supported field research on Titi monkeys, cotton-top tamarins, jaguars, and Andean bears. Some of the radio collars used to track Andean bears in Ecuador were purchased through the funds raised during the Night of the Living Zoo.
The entire Zoo works hard on these events to raise money to help support conservation. The zoo keepers, through the Chesapeake Chapter of the American Association of Zoo Keepers (AAZK), also raise money for conservation in some additional ways:
On-Grounds Conservation Action
Recently, we began including a conservation tip in each issue of the Zoo News, our membership newsletter. The concept of respect continues in our gift shop where we offer a number of Fair Trade items to our visitors.
On a local, direct involvement level, our staff and docents have put together teams of volunteers to participate in the annual International Coastal Cleanup Day and the Delmarva Bioblitz.
In the re-modeling of the Morgan Visitor Center, we will create the Morgan Environmental Center. This building will highlight area reptiles and amphibians, as well as, invertebrates. Included with these species will be some tropical reptiles and amphibians. Graphics presenting the plight of amphibians, the importance of pollinators, and beach protection for piping plovers are all part of the educational plan for this building. The building itself will be built using green technologies and provide additional environmental education opportunities for our visitors.
The Zoo must also walk the talk and operate as green as economically possible. There are recycling stations for staff and the visitors. Office paper is recycled and some is shredded to be used for animal bedding. Being a small zoo, walking is the norm for staff but a John Deere Gator was purchased to be used for larger deliveries on Zoo grounds that were previously being done with a flatbed truck. This purchase has made Zoo deliveries and activities easier and safer, and has reduced our gasoline consumption.
Numerous native plants have been added to the plant palette of landscaping throughout the Zoo. The main entrance (the East Gate) into the Zoo was planted in the fall of 2009 with a variety of native grasses, trees, shrubs and perennials to create an attractive entrance for our visitors. A butterfly/wildlife garden has been started along the perimeter of the event space that will continue to develop as the event space is expanded. The final goal of this garden initiative is to provide a more diverse animal habitat while creating a backdrop of perennials to ones view as you enter the Zoo from the East gate.
As the Zoo develops, the bamboo groves now in the North American areas will be moved to the new South American exhibits to help create the feel of the tropical forest. The plant areas within North America will then be planted with more appropriate native species.
As the Zoo’s landscape develops, we will be integrating more information on the role of plants in the environment and what each of us can do to help wildlife in our own backyards.
Not only do we educate our visitors about the environment, we inspire them to take action to reduce their impacts on the world. By practicing what we teach, we show our visitors how to take the first step in making the world a better place!