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Members in Action; Naples Zoo

Work now underway at Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens is helping to support significant conservation efforts in and outside their zoo.

Speaking by phone earlier this month, Tim Tetzlaff, Director of Conservation at Naples Zoo, shared in situ and ex situ conservation challenges and successes with Species360 member support, product development, and other staff gathered from Europe, Asia, and the Americas.

Dr. Luke Dollar (left) and Tim Tetzlaff (right) pose with an anesthetized fosa named Tim. Naples Zoo funds fosa education and research initiatives in Madagascar.

Naples Zoo is an award-winning, AZA-accredited institution that sits on a 43-acre piece of Gulf-coast paradise in Naples, FL. Founded in 1919 as a botanical garden, the zoo now cares for a number of threatened and endangered animal species, as well as an impressive collection of tropical flora.

Uno the One-eyed Florida panther in his enclosure at Naples Zoo. Uno was blinded by a shotgun blast to the face before being rescued and brought to his new home.

Even more impressive is the zoo’s commitment to important conservation work. Among many similar efforts within Florida, Naples Zoo is supporting the recovery of the once critically endangered Florida panther population. Their exhibition of Uno, a male panther found blinded by a shotgun blast and cared for by the zoo until his death in 2018, and Athena, abandoned by her mother as a kitten, raises awareness of the threats facing the species. An in-house rescue-facility also provides short-term care for injured and orphaned panthers. Naples Zoo also collaborates on in situ panther conservation efforts including a pilot program focused on testing a new strategy for promoting peaceful cohabitation between panthers and their human neighbors.

Cattle run while the Naples Zoo team watches. Naples Zoo runs a pilot program integrating cattle herds with Criollo breeds capable of defending the herd from predators. (photo credit – Carlton Ward Jr.)

Outside their local area, Naples Zoo aids in the conservation of giant anteaters in Brazil, helps save lemurs and fosas in Madagascar, and even sponsors the salaries of seven field staff including two veterinarians and researchers.  

Since 2015, Naples Zoo has invested over $1 million dollars to conservation projects, and that will increase as spending ramps up. The goal, Tetzlaff said, is to soon be giving away $1 million dollars every three years. A complete list of the conservation projects to which Naples Zoo contributes is available on their website.

A common element in their approach to conservation is consistent and reliable funding to any program Naples Zoo aligns with, a strategy he promotes for Naples Zoo in contrast to one-time grants or donations.

“Long-term impacts only happen through long-term funding,” Tetzlaff said.

Tetzlaff is adamant about the importance of access to Species360 ZIMS (Zoological Information Management System) data to enable successful species conservation.

A giant anteater carries its pup as it walks along a road in Brazil. The Anteaters&Highways project monitors giant anteater populations, aided by Naples Zoo funding.

As wild populations of threatened species become increasingly fragmented and isolated, said Tetzlaff, the kind of management needed for in situ populations becomes less distinguishable from current management practices of ex situ ones. Sharing ZIMS data on fertility rates, medical values, diet, and even things like habitat preferences and appearance is critical to informing conservationists as they track and manage both wild and zoo populations.

We appreciate the superb work of Naples Zoo to aid conservation and are proud to support their work as part of the Species360 community.

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