Last week was National Zookeeper Week, an opportunity to appreciate zookeepers’ hard work, conservation efforts and passion. Zookeepers at American Humane Certified™ zoos and aquariums hold a special place in our heart – they are the backbone of the facility, dedicating their lives to saving species, providing lifesaving research and education, and inspiring millions of visitors each year to protect the animals with which they see and interact.
Here are a few recent stories of hope and healing from the frontlines of the conservation movement:
You may have heard of Przewalski’s horse – the last surviving subspecies of wild horse. These horses once freely roamed the steppe along the Mongolia-China border, until they were listed as extinct in the wild in 1969. Thanks to the conservation efforts of several institutions, however, including the Denver Zoo, the species is slowly making a comeback. In 1992, 16 captive-bred horses were reintroduced into protected areas in Mongolia. According to the Denver Zoo, by 2005, the free-ranging population of Przewalski’s horses rose to 248. If it wasn’t for the efforts of zoos, these beautiful animals may have disappeared forever.
Addax antelope are also considered critically endangered, with less than 100 estimated to still exist in the wild. That’s why we are overjoyed by the recent birth of an addax antelope at Brookfield Zoo! The male calf, born on July 2, is the result of an addax species survival plan, a cooperative population management and conservation program in which the zoo is a participant. The calf, who has not yet been named, was born to five-year-old Simone and eight-year-old Ishnala. Every new birth of a critically endangered species is cause for global celebration, and we are grateful for the facilities that are working to pull the addax antelope back from the brink.
After two years of planning and anxiously awaiting their arrival, Tanganyika Wildlife Park welcomed five southern white rhinos from Africa to the facility’s new Safari Park! The team took many precautions to account for the animals’ health and ensure their safe transportation. The rhinos are all two-and-a-half-years of age and weigh approximately 1,500 – 2,000 pounds. Once they reach adulthood, they will weigh a whopping 6,000 pounds! Unfortunately, poaching and illegal trade are the biggest threats to white rhinos in their native habitat. Because of this, the species is classified as near-threatened. The hope is for the five rhinos to live long, happy lives at Tanganyika Wildlife Park, where they can help create a healthy population for their species within human care. The rhinos are not yet visible to the public because they are being given time to adjust to their new surroundings, but the Lead Hoofstock Keeper, Robert, stated that it is already clear that each of them has their own personality. We are sure they are in good hands!
These success stories wouldn’t be possible without the dedication and compassion of the zookeepers. They ensure their animal residents receive the best possible care, and work hard every day to preserve the extraordinary species with whom we share the planet. Next time you visit an American Humane Certified™ zoo or aquarium, be sure to thank the zookeepers for helping to build a better, more humane world.