A Big Impact

When it comes to working with wildlife, zoos and aquariums have a broader reach than at any time in their history. Conservation that was once limited to an institution’s walls now spans the globe, bringing together experts from the world’s wildest places.

I follow zoo conservation news every day, but I was still impressed recently to see the sum of what we accomplish working together. A report from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums this week shared that AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums contribute $160 million a year to wildlife conservation. All in all, that extends to 2,650 projects in 130 countries.

Hartebeest move across the grasslands of the Serengeti, one of the sites where zoo scientists conduct vital conservation research. Photo by Sharon Dewar.

Hartebeest move across the grasslands of the Serengeti, one of the sites where zoo scientists conduct vital conservation research. Photo by Sharon Dewar.

Lincoln Park Zoo is proud to contribute to that tally, leading groundbreaking conservation projects in the U.S. and overseas. During my time as President and CEO, what started as a handful of zoo researchers has grown to nearly 50 conducting work in field sites from Montana’s Northern Cheyenne Reservation to the Republic of Congo’s remote Goualougo Triangle.

Like their peers throughout the AZA, these Lincoln Park Zoo scientists are constantly finding new ways to save wildlife, from “camera traps” tallying species in the Chicago region to software models identifying possible paths to extinction—and recovery. You can learn about these tools and more in the spring issue of Lincoln Park Zoo magazine, which explores The Conservation Toolkit.

While scientists chase new innovations, zoological institutions constantly pursue new ways to work together. Next week I’ll join a number of zoo employees in traveling to the AZA 2013 Mid-Year Meeting in Charleston, South Carolina, which is always a great opportunity to learn from peers. The week after that I’ll meet with zoo leaders around the globe at the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums meeting in Gland, Switzerland, which will focus on animal welfare.

It’s an exciting time for zoos. Many species need our help, but we’re rising to the occasion, working together to benefit the animals we care for—and conserve.

Kevin Bell

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