Species360 members we met on the way to ZACC 2018
In January my wife and I took a road trip from Saint Paul, Minnesota to Jacksonville Florida to join the biannual conference of Zoos and Aquariums Committing to Conservation. Julie Yamamoto posted a great recap of the ZACC conference if you are interested. This was my first time at the conference and I am convinced we need to attend regularly. The opportunity to connect with and support impactful conservation projects was invaluable.
In route to and from the conference we visited ten amazing Zoos and Aquariums. Unfortunately, a road trip of 3,200 miles means bypassing significantly more Species360 members than we could possibly visit. But member visits have proven invaluable for myself and for our team so I wanted to maximize my opportunities. During visits, we learn about our members and their amazing animals and staff. And we get to see firsthand how their animal care, education, and conservation programs work during these visits. We gain amazing insights into how we can help. I want to share some of the amazing work these organizations are doing onsite and around the world.
International Crane Foundation
Our first stop was to the International Crane Foundation. This is an amazing organization with 300 acres, animal facilities and a small set of offices in Baraboo, Wisconsin. They work internationally to protect both the birds and the delicate ecosystems critical to all of the world’s crane species. Species360 often prides ourselves on our global work, but we may have met our match! It’s the only place in the world where you can see all fifteen crane species in one place – perhaps the best reason to add the International Crane Foundation to your bucket list. And if you need more inspiration, their introductory video, narrated by Tom Brokaw, might just be enough. We enjoyed the chance to meet the birds and learn about their breeding successes and challenges. Observing them helped us better understand their behaviors. Special thanks to Dorn, Cynthia and Claire (left to right in the picture – that’s me in the red coat) for taking time out during their busy day on our behalf. And for providing the extra layers for the cold day on the Wisconsin winter tundra! We are looking forward to working with them later this year to migrate a significant amount of data collected on crane into the Zoological Information Management System, ZIMS. This data will be invaluable as we aggregate and share key details such as physiological norms and medical parameters for these critical species with the broader zoological and species conservation community.
Chicago Zoological Society and the Species Conservation Toolkit Initiative (SCTI)
Day two included a trip to the iconic Chicago Zoological Society and their Brookfield Zoo. A visit to an organization as complex as CZS could easily cover multiple days (and several blog posts) so I will hit just a few highlights. I want to acknowledge the amazing contribution they are making to species conservation, animal care, veterinary sciences, and education. Everyone we met was focused not only on the animals and projects run by CZS, but also giving back to the local community in and around Chicago. They also support the broader zoological and species conservation community in many ways. Species360 is proud to support and work closely with the Species Conservation Toolkit Initiative. SCTI is a partnership that builds innovative tools to support species risk assessments and conservation planning used around the world. CZS is a founding and significant ongoing sponsor.
I had the chance to spend some time with Dr. Tom Meehan, VP of Veterinary Services during my visit. Tom seemed in quite a hurry to rush me off to the vet hospital, and I didn’t fully understand why. It was quite a surprise. It’s not every day that you get to visit with a veterinary team imaging and performing medical checks on a white-bellied tree pangolin. In fact, this was my first time to see a live pangolin at all. That was a huge open box on my bucket list (now, to see one in the wild!). The Chicago Zoological Society is a member of a consortium working to establish a sustainable population of white-bellied tree pangolins under professional care to aid in better understanding their behavior and physiology and to support field conservation efforts. The other members of this Consortium include Species360 members, Pittsburgh Zoo, Turtleback Zoo, Memphis Zoo, Columbus Zoo, and Gladys Porter Zoo, as well as the non-profit Pangolin Conservation. I look forward to hearing great news from this group about future successes in breeding and husbandry practices.
Footnote – I am typing this post around World Pangolin Day 2018. Many thanks to those hosting my visit, especially Dr. Stuart Strahl (President and CEO) and Sarah Breen-Bartecki (VP for Conservation Funding Initiatives/VP for Conservation and Education) for spending taking so much time to share the impact of CZS and to discuss our partnership.
By day two it was obvious that this trip was going to be about the journey, at least as much as the destination with much more to come…