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Amazing members part 2 – orangutans, gorillas and the golden lion tamarin

On the road again

As I am in the midst of my 2018 spring travel to for Species360 Board of Trustees meeting, and to attend conferences for both EAZA and ZAA (Australasia), I realize I still have a few Species360 member visit experiences to share.  Days 3 and 4 of my road trip to the ZACC conference were all about primates, big and small – orangutans, gorillas, and more! If you missed my recap of Days 1-2, you can catch up here.

Member visit to the Indianapolis Zoo

Jim at the Indianapolis Zoo (orangutans)
Jim at the Indianapolis Zoo

Indianapolis Zoo, a Species360 member since 1978, is going through an exciting and well-planned leadership transition.

To address the planned retirement of President & CEO Mike Crowther in January 2020, the Zoo’s Board of Trustees announced recently it will split the role of President and CEO into two positions for 2018 and 2019. Crowther remains CEO, and Zoo Director Dr. Rob Shumaker becomes President. After Crowther retires, the president and CEO position will become one.

(excerpt from the Indianopolis Zoo announcement)

Dr. Shumaker has been with the Indianapolis Zoo for 8 years and has experience with Smithsonian’s National Zoo and the Great Ape Trust.  We look forward to watching him step into his new and pending leadership roles.  And we congratulate Dr. Crowther on a wonderful career and well-earned retirement.

Learning about the Indianapolis Prize

A highlight of my visit with the zoo leadership team was gaining a deeper understanding of the value and impact of the Indianapolis Prize.  This biennial prize is a program of the Indianapolis Zoo. Recognized as being a top award for conservation leaders, the prize is awarded to an individual who has made significant strides in animal conservation. In addition to a $250,000 cash award, the Winner — selected from among six Finalists — receives the Lilly Medal. Each of the other five Finalists receives $10,000.  It was also exciting to hear about the impact of this prize several times the following week at the ZACC Conference.

Baby orangutan Mila climbing (orangutans)
Baby orangutan Mila climbing

Baby orangutans and reforestation

Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the two newest members of the Indianapolis Zoo.  Mila and Max are two 1-year old orangutans living in the Simon Skjodt International Orangutan Center, an immersive, educational experience for the visitor and an amazing home for the residents.  Designed from their perspective, it allows the apes to climb, swing and move in a very natural way.  Babies are always cute. But there is something about the knowing eyes and the red, bed-head hair of a young Orang.

Simon Skjodt International Orangutan Center (orangutans)
Simon Skjodt International Orangutan Center

Of course, central to the challenge for the critically endangered orangutans in the wild is the growth of the Palm Oil industry, which is devastating their forest habitat in Indonesia.  Indianapolis Zoo is a leader in public education about this crisis and is supporting a reforestation initiative in Borneo’s Kutai National Park.

Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International

While not technically a Species360 member (I like to think we are all on the same team) my next stop was at Zoo Atlanta, generous hosts of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund and CEO Dr. Tara Stoinski.  Dian Fossey, was of course famous for founding the Karisoke™ Research Center in Rwanda’s Virunga mountains to protect and study the critically endangered mountain gorillas.  Tara and her team bravely continue the successful conservation work started over 50 years ago. They are providing daily protection for the gorillas, conducting scientific research, education for conservationists and helping the local communities.  If you have the time and the means, I highly recommend  supporting this amazing organization and the gorillas they represent.

Tara and I discussed the data and capabilities of Species360 ZIMS and how our software could potentially support her organization in the future.  We are eager to support field projects. We’d like to better understand their needs and how we can provide a sustainable solution for them.  If you work with a field project and/or are interested in joining this conversation, please send us an email or tweet @jguenter13.

Gorilla named Kundu (orangutans)
Gorilla named Kundu

The Golden Lion Tamarin – a continuing success story

A Golden Lion Tamarin scent marking a tree (orangutans)
A Golden Lion Tamarin scent marking a tree

During my visit to Zoo Atlanta I was able to spend some time with Dr. Jennifer Mickelberg, Senior Director of Collections and  Conservation at Zoo Atlanta. She is also an active Director on the Board of Save the Golden Lion Tamarin (another organization to support!) and manages the international studbook for the endangered Golden Lion Tamarin.  Jennifer is an amazing expert on the Golden Lion Tamarin. She has so much experience about the species, their habitat, and the local challenges for their populations.  Jennifer was joined by Luis Paulo Ferraz at the ZACC conference. Together they shared many details of the history and current status of this iconic creature. It is encouraging to know the population has grown significantly from only 200 just a few decades ago to an estimated 3,200 today. Yet this species is still in need of active protection. And while their home is improving, their populations are still fragmented with much work to be done to ensure they can sustain themselves in the future.  A great retelling of their story, featuring Luis, is available on National Public Radio. One of the “dreams” mentioned in the interview was the creation of tamarin bridges over highways. It is exciting to note that dream is now a reality.

Golden Lion Tamarin success story (orangutans)

So, after some very exciting visits with members, inspiring leaders, and conservation organizations, it was back to the road trip. Next stop, Jacksonville, Florida and the ZACC Conference.

by Jim Guenter, Species360 CEO

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