Blank Park Zoo hosts Burmese Refugees

Bookmark and Share Zoo Blog

Blank Park Zoo hosts Burmese Refugees


Blank Park Zoo recently hosted a group of Burmese refugees, giving them an experience to see and touch animals they have never seen before.

Getting a chance to meet one of the Zoo's aldabra tortoises

The three families enjoyed touring the Zoo, experiencing an education animal presentation, riding the train and having close encounters with the Zoo’s animals.

An education program included the chance to touch a millipede!

Riding the train around the Zoo

The three families that visited are immigrants from Myanmar (formerly called Burma) and consider themselves Karenni, which is a state in Burma. These families have had quite a journey in their lifetime. They lived in quiet villages and farmed in the mountainous eastern part of Burma along the border with Thailand. Their lives centered on their families, age-old customs, songs and dances.

After political problems erupted, causing them to flee to Thai refugee camps, they were able to immigrate to the United States. The Karenni are soft-spoken, gentle people who don’t complain, even under trying circumstances. Their distinctive dress includes beautiful long skirts with muted bands of color. This group of immigrants has added an entirely new set of customs and fashions to Des Moines.

The children live comfortably in both worlds – going to school, learning and speaking English and using American electronic devices. Yet they keep a strong affection for their native cultural practices, still speaking their Karenni dialect in addition to English, and especially enjoying their music. The adults are busy learning English and the many complex processes of being in America, such as filing income tax returns, understanding leases, and opening savings accounts. The fathers in the families work long hours in the meat packing plant, traveling back and forth to Marshalltown each day.

The Zoo was pleased and honored to host and support these refugees.

One of the Burmese refugee families

To learn more about the initiatives, projects and efforts the Zoo supports and how you can get involved, visit Blank Park Zoo’s Conservation and Donation pages.

07/24/2013 1:22 PM |Add a comment
* denotes a required field.
Add Comment
Name: *
Comments: *
Copyright © 2016 Blank Park Zoo. All Rights Reserved.