Saving the Serengeti

It’s always instructive to see your work through someone else’s eyes. When you’re close to a project, working day-to-day to bring it to fruition, it’s easy to focus on the next milestone instead of celebrating what you’ve already achieved.

As this week’s three-part series in the Chicago Tribune shows, Lincoln Park Zoo has plenty to celebrate when it comes to our conservation work in the Serengeti. A zoo-led vaccination campaign there protects local people from the scourge of rabies, even as it stops the spread of diseases to park predators such as lions.

The series offers a rich array of stories, photos and videos from Africa. For a takeaway, though, I like to focus on one key fact: Rabies cases have been reduced to zero in targeted areas since vaccination began. That’s a rewarding outcome for a devastating disease.

Our work doesn’t end on vaccination day, though. Do dogs live longer as a result of vaccination? Do their populations grow? Researcher Anna Czupryna spends five months in the field every year to answer these questions and others. The knowledge she’s compiling will be vital for efforts to reproduce our success in the Serengeti in other spots around the globe.

Zoo researcher Anna Czupryna sets up a camera trap to monitor for wildlife in the Serengeti.

Zoo researcher Anna Czupryna sets up a camera trap to monitor for wildlife in the Serengeti

With all the attention given to the Serengeti this week, it’s fitting that one of the ecosystem’s signature predators has just arrived at the zoo. Two spotted hyenas have moved into one of the exhibits along the McCormick Bear Habitat north of Regenstein African Journey.

One of the zoo's new spotted hyenas

One of the zoo's new spotted hyenas

These powerful predators—males, ages 14 and 3—arrived from Denver Zoo last week. It’s amazing to watch this social species prowl their exhibit. Like so many of the zoo’s animals, they remind us of the wildlife we’re working to save a world away.

Kevin Bell

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