Thursday, December 10, 2015

Essay by Beth Armstrong, ZACC Steering Committee

"Whenever you read a good book, somewhere in the world a door opens to allow in more light" -Vera Nazarian 

I love books - the incredible power of the written world to transform and transport the reader. Each year I host a conservation mentoring weekend at my home. The intent is to bring together like-minded folks that work at zoos and field projects in order to form alliances and partnerships, to create firm friendships that hopefully will last a lifetime as well as encourage those attending to mentor others that may have an interest in conservation issues as well. I bring this up because inevitably we spend the first evening discussing books  - indeed one of the gifts for all of my guests is a hand-picked book that I think they might enjoy.

It seems to be a common theme amongst many of my field and zoo colleagues - this love of reading.  I have also noticed that at ZACC conferences we often greet one another with “ What have you read lately?” Below is a sampling of books I simply could not put down.

Tales of a Shaman’s Apprentice  - by Mark Plotkin
The Blue Sweater - by Jacqueline Novogratz
Bird by Bird - by Anne Lamott
The Origin (the story of Darwins’s voyage on the SS Beagle) - by Irving Stone
Shadow of Man  - by Jane Goodall
Gorillas in the Mist - by Dian Fossey
Gorillas In our Midst - by Jeff Lyttle

The Origin - by Irving Stone

Short Stories:
Jaguars ripped my flesh - by Tim Cahill
A wolverine is eating my leg - by Tim Cahill

Thursday, October 31, 2013

From the Blank Park Zoo

Conservation Spotlight: Kinabatangan River Spirit Initiative

Kinabatangan River Spirit: Contributing to Freshwater Conservation & Sustainable Livelihoods in Northern Borneo

Although well known for its terrestrial biodiversity, Borneo Island is also a hotspot for aquatic diversity, with almost 40% of its freshwater fish species endemic to the island. The most isolated among the island’s watersheds, the Kinabatangan River has the highest levels of freshwater endemism on the island. Unfortunately, degradation of the river is experienced by local communities. Water critical for rural and urban populations is polluted and highly sedimented; and freshwater fish important for livelihoods have become scarce. Although river dwellers recognize the changes in the river, nothing has been done to document the loss in fish diversity or change in overall river health. Communities have had little role in the future of their river and have been left to adapt to the seemingly inevitable.

After spending 15 years in the United States, including a seven-year financial career in New York City, Tun-Min Poh discovered her passion for saving the fish and wanted to spread the word. She is now committed to marine and freshwater conservation, promoting sustainable fisheries in her home country of Malaysia. She runs the Kinabatangan River Spirit Initiative in Malayan-Borneo, a freshwater conservation project with a focus on fish and a community-based approach.

She spoke about this initiative at the Zoos and Aquariums Committed to Conservation Conference (ZACC) earlier this summer, hosted by Blank Park Zoo. The Kinabatangan River Spirit Initiative was conceived on the basis that community participation in research and management is critical for achieving a healthy river, and developed based on the needs identified by the local Kinabatangan community. The project envisages a healthy Kinabatangan river, which supports robust freshwater biodiversity, persistence of local culture, and sustainable development. The goals of this project include providing a baseline for fish diversity, gathering information on locally and globally threatened species, and strengthening the argument for sustainable development practices in the Kinabatangan catchment. Tun-Min Poh recently sent over pictures to the Zoo documenting their work.

Photo Captions starting at top:

Workshop hosted by community-based eco-tourism cooperative KOPEL with local communities in Batu Puteh and
Mengaris to present and discuss our project and freshwater fish conservation (September 7, 2013)

A total of 45 interviews were conducted in the villages of Batu Puteh and Mengaris to identify the value of the river to the community, determine the threats, and find solutions. Here is one of our interviewers, Mr. Abdul Rahman from the Mengaris community, presenting a t-shirt to an interviewee. The production of these t-shirts was made possible by the contribution of ZACC!
The kids from Batu Puteh and Mengaris were thrilled to see their home the Kinabatangan and its wildlife presented in a poster made by their peers in the United States!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Slow Loris Conservation - submitted by Cleveland Metroparks Zoo

Join the Little Fireface Project in celebrating Slow Loris Outreach Week (SLOW) September 14-20, 2013.
The aim of Slow Loris Outreach Week is to bring attention to the conservation plight of wild lorises, which are threatened not only by the pet trade but also by habitat loss and hunting for use in traditional medicines. The hope is that educating the public about these amazing creatures, which include among them the world’s only venomous primates, will inspire efforts to project them, and to denounce “cute” videos depicting loris victims of the pet trade.

Slow lorises are small primates related to lemurs. These shy, nocturnal animals can be found across Southeast Asia, moving through the forests at night feeding on tree saps and searching for insect prey. Their endearing appearance hides a fascinating fact- they are the only known venomous primates.

Slow lorises face many threats to their survival, including habitat loss. Most recently these unique creatures have become internet stars in large part due to their cute appearance. This fame is helping to fuel a cruel, illegal and unsustainable trade that harvests lorises from their wild habitats to be sold in markets as pets. Not only is  this practice having devastating effects on slow loris populations, but these unfortunate animals suffer terribly as a result. Our conservation partners at The Little Fireface Project have recently published the first scholarly paper linking viral web videos of loris pets to the surging wildlife trade.

 Be a loris web defender…
·      Don’t “like” or support online videos of pet lorises.

Instead, direct viewers and friends online to resources that expose the truth about slow loris pets and the illegal wildlife trade.

·      Spread the truth online during Slow Loris Outreach Week (September 14-20)

·      Visit to learn more about you can help slow lorises and take action by signing petitions against slow loris trade and web exploitation.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Houston Zoo - Saving the World's Elephants

The elephant is one of Africa's most iconic species. It is in peril due to illegal poaching, habitat loss and conflict with local human communities. We need your help today to turn the tide and protect wildlife and communities in Africa.
Our goal is to raise $250,000 this fall in support of a wide range of programs in regions where our field partners are working on the ground to help elephants in the wild.

The Problem
Over 30 years ago, elephants numbered more than 1 million. Now, that number is only half. By 2025, elephants could be lost in a number of countries across Africa. One of the main threats to elephants is conflict with humans.

Where human and elephant populations overlap, problems often occur. Elephants raid crops, causing threats to villages and the livelihoods of farmers. Because of this, there is little political or community will to protect elephants. Without the support of local communities, poaching for the illegal ivory trade will continue to dramatically increase.

The Solution
We partner with conservation groups who work to reduce threats and promote harmony between people and wildlife. For example, posting beehives on fence lines wards off curious elephants and prevents crop raids.

We also support programs that hire local community members for anti-poaching efforts and to actively monitor and protect wild elephant populations. These programs support the livelihood of communities while also safeguarding elephants.

Our partners also identify and support innovative initiatives to prevent ivory trafficking and reduce demand for ivory products.

With your help, we can turn the tide against the illegal ivory trade and protect wildlife and communities in Africa.

What Can You Do?
Check out our online auction that opened today. Bid on your favorite items - all proceeds benefit elephant conservation

Get educated: attend our upcoming Elephant Open House to learn more about these incredible creatures and see them up close.

Attend the upcoming Feed Your Wildlife Gala and hear from Dr. Iain Douglas-Hamilton, founder of Save the Elephants.

Join us and other friends in Houston on a March for Elephants on October 4, starting at City Hall.