Supporting field organizations (those people on the front lines saving animals in their range countries) is an important role a modern zoo can take to save species in the wild. In addition to financially supporting these projects, the Blank Park Zoo also sends our expert staff to aid in the field. We may be a “small” zoo, but we have experts in everything from conservation to animal husbandry to veterinary medicine. Sending our staff is a great way to enhance the projects happening on the ground.
And don’t forget, a portion of every dollar made at the Blank Park Zoo goes toward saving animals in the wild!
Name: Megan Wright Walker, Manager Animal Health Center & Enrichment Coordinator
Project Name: Channel Islands Marine and Wildlife Institute, California
The Blank Park Zoo helped the California sea lion by funding a trip for Megan to volunteer at the Channel Islands Marine and Wildlife Institute in California! Large amounts of sea lions are stranding their young, leaving them before they gain adequate nutrition. This is because the sea lion population of California has been going through a UME since 2013, which is an Unusual Mortality Event. There are not enough volunteers at stranding facilities to care for all of them. Sending our volunteer helped this non-profit to more easily care for the unusually large population of sea lions that need our help! As a volunteer in the spring of 2016, she participated in releases, preparing diets, cleaning holding pens, medicating animals, and assisting with the completion of daily charting for each animal. Megan’s favorite memory was of one sea lion (named #230 after being the 230th sea lion rescued that year) that needed rehabilitation for gaining weight and fixing his left fore flipper. #230, who weighed only 53 pounds when found, gained 40 pounds from the start of rehab and was released back into a private beach 45 days later. Fun fact: the BPZ has received two of its sea lions on exhibit from stranding facilities in California. Come visit Addy and Zoe to see the amazing results of California sea lion rehabilitation!
Photo courtesy of CIMWI
Name: Patrick Nepp, Large Mammal Keeper
Project: Giraffe Conservation Foundation, Namibia
Pat spent three weeks during the fall of 2016 in Namibia with the Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF) tracking giraffe populations near the Hoarusib and Hoanib rivers. Each giraffe that was located along their trip was photographed on the left and right sides of the body to identify the individual. These photographs were then compared to those of previously identified giraffes to determine if they had located a new individual. In addition to photographing the giraffes, the team also installed GPS collars on the giraffes to monitor movements. Before the team even began their study, they practiced how to safely handle the giraffes to increase the well-being of the animals during the collaring process. This was very important, as the safety of the giraffes was the team’s first priority. GPS movements recorded by the collars help GCF to understand how much land the giraffes occupy to aid in their conservation efforts.
Pat also had the opportunity of joining GCF in visiting three local Namibian schools. The Blank Park Zoo donated supplies that Pat and the GCF team were able to deliver to the schools. Pat was also able to see many other species of animals throughout his three weeks in Namibia, such as warthogs, elephants, mountain zebras and lions! GCF is the only organization doing giraffe conservation work throughout Africa, creating a movement to protect our long-necked friends. The Blank Park Zoo financially supports the Giraffe Conservation Foundation with a large grant each year. We also love to send our experts, who care for these animals every day, to aid in conservation efforts.
Name: Lou Keeley, Large Mammal Supervisor
Project: Rhino Fund Uganda, Uganda
In February of 2017, Lou Keeley was able to volunteer with Rhino Fund Uganda at Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary through Blank Park Zoo Staff’s Conservation Fund. Both the rhino fund and rhino sanctuary’s missions are to reintroduce white and black rhinos to Uganda's National Parks. Both these species have been extirpated from Uganda since 1983. Since the sanctuaries start in 2004 with only 6 white rhinos, the population has more than doubled in size with 19 white rhinos in 2017. While there, Lou helped monitor rhino behavior and safety with park rangers, assisted in night patrols and maintained sanctuary perimeter fencing. As supervisor of Blank Park Zoo’s 3 black rhinos, he was most interested in rhino monitoring, but helped out wherever was needed within the sanctuary. One of the most exciting things for Lou was being able to observe natural rhino behavior in the wild and in close proximity. It is important for keepers to use animal behavior in the wild to gauge and enhance the wellness of rhinos in our care, Kiano, Ayana and Tumani. Overall Lou was proud to represent Blank Park Zoo and felt he made a positive impact with his time spent at the sanctuary.
Name: Kyle O’Dea, Small Mammal Keeper
Project: Madagascar Biodiversity Partnership, Madagascar
Kyle O’Dea, sponsored by the Blank Park Zoo Staff’s Conservation Fund, was able to travel to Madagascar to volunteer with the Madagascar Biodiversity Project in the spring of 2017. He felt that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity as every biology students learns of this unique island in school. The chance to actually go there and see endemic species, including 5 different species of lemurs in their own habitat was just mind blowing.The last half of Kyle’s trip consisted of two expeditions to capture lemurs for DNA sampling in two different forests. One of the most exciting things for him was being able to follow lemur research and reforestation teams, seeing the amazing work they are doing in the field. The dart team members were able to spot the animals that weighed less than an apple, high up in the trees, at night! They would hike out in the dark forests at night as lemurs are not as active then. Any lemurs they spotted were darted and taken back to camp for dna sampling and body measurements. Lemurs were released the very next morning and played an important role by providing samples that will hopefully lead to identification of new lemur species. He was also able to participate with searching to see if lemurs remained in the Tapia Forest. Kyle learned great deal about the culture and daily lives of those who live in Madagascar, and how much effort is going into saving the habitats for the island. It was incredible to see how much effort goes into involving the communities in the conservation efforts, and how successful they have been. Being there really put that fire back in Kyle to go out and hopefully do research again one day. Kyle was extremely grateful for the amazing support of the Blank Park Zoo through the Staff Conservation Fund on this whirlwind of a trip.
Name: Jordan Longtin, Large Mammal Keeper
Project: Giraffe Conservation Foundation, Namibia
In the spring of 2018, Jordan spent 10 days assisting the Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF) in their mission to monitor movements and the genetics of giraffe populations using GPS mapping, individual identification and DNA sampling. The study took place in the north western Namibian desert, in the dry river beds of Hoarusib and Hoanib. The team photographed each giraffe that they located in order to keep track of their individual movements and variation of social groupings. Giraffes can be identified by unique spot patterns, so this helped them to keep track of the individuals that they saw. Jordan particularly enjoyed locating and identifying giraffe calves in the Hoarusib. Along with the population studies, the team was also able to observe social behaviors amongst the giraffe herds. Conservation efforts, as well as local education, by GCF have aided in the stability of Namibian giraffe populations. Jordan’s passions for giraffes and conservation were intensified by experiencing GCF’s commitment to making conservation a priority. The Blank Park Zoo is proud to be a sponsor of the Giraffe Conservation Foundation, providing an annual grant for the organization. We also believe that it is important for our keepers to experience wild populations so that they can use the insight to enhance care for BPZ animals, such as Lizzy and Zola!
Photos courtesy of Andreas Fernbrandt
Name and Position: Lisa Williams, Senior Database Coordinator
Project: Wildlife Care Clinic. Ames, Iowa
At Blank Park Zoo, we not only help animals from far away, we also help wildlife here in Iowa! The conservation fund at the Blank Park Zoo helped fund a trip for Lisa to volunteer at the Ames Wildlife Care Clinic in 2018! Working at the clinic entailed getting food ready for different species, providing supplemental feeding to those who need it, administering medications, applying ointments, giving medicated baths, and making sure all animals were thriving. One of her favorite parts was Rock Pigeon rehabilitation. One young Rock Pigeon needed to learn basic survival skills from an older pigeon that was brought into the clinic. Once the young Pigeon had learned how to act, they were both released in the same area. Conservation of natural species, such as this pigeon, help keep our planet’s biodiversity rich. Biodiversity is essential for a functioning ecosystem, which includes both animals and humans. The Blank Park Zoo and the Ames Wildlife Care Clinic are helping to keep animals safe in the world through conservation and rehabilitation.
Name and Position: Mallory Machir, Education Community Programs Specialist
Project: Wild Sun Rescue Center, Cabuya, Costa Rica
Educator Mallory went to Cabuya, Costa Rica to volunteer at Wild Sun Rescue Center as part of Blank Park Zoo's Staff Conservation Fund. Wild Sun rescues, rehabilitates, and releases native wildlife of the Nicoya Peninsula. Mallory spent time caring for baby howler monkeys, white-fronted Amazon parrots, variegated squirrels, along with a raccoon, and paca. She also assisted interns with research projects,an animal wellness evaluation process, and advised staff on their developing education programs. Blank Park Zoo's Staff Conservation Fund allows employees to share their unique skills in the field to help save animals and contribute to conservation organizations around the world.