Conservation in Action: OKC Zoo team members take love of wildlife to the heart of Africa

Oklahoma’s premier destination connecting people and our world’s vanishing wildlife and wild places. This is the Zoo’s mission and it guides everything we do. To fulfill this mission it’s vital that we connect our staff to our world’s vanishing wildlife and wild places, so that they can accurately and passionately convey the world’s extinction crisis to our guests who will likely never see an elephant, or rhino, or zebra in the ever dwindling wild places they live. And so, we are sending four Zoo employees to Africa in the next few months to work side by side with our conservation partners who are striving to halt the extinction of endangered species.

Education naturalist, Erica Buckwalter, and carnivore caretaker, Trisha McDonald, will spend two weeks in Zimbabwe helping Painted Dog Research Trust (PDRT) staff track endangered African painted dogs. PDRT staff place satellite collars on painted dogs to monitor them for long-term studies. The collars are reinforced with metal which protects the dogs from being killed in snares. Money from the Round Up for Conservation Fund was used to purchase additional satellite collars, so that more painted dogs can be studied and protected.

Elephant caretaker, Amy Hofmeister, and veterinarian, Gretchen Cole, will spend two weeks in Kenya helping Grevy’s Zebra Trust conduct a census of endangered Grevy’s zebras. Scientists, conservationists and zoo teams will drive through designated areas and photograph the right side of each Grevy's zebra observed with a global positioning system enabled digital camera. The zebras have unique stripe patterns that allows them to be individually recognized. Data from the photographs will be used to identify the individual, its age, and sex. This provides an estimate of the entire population in Kenya and this information is used to inform conservation plans. Grevy’s Zebra Trust received a grant from the Round Up for Conservation Fund to support their program that employs warriors from local communities to monitor and collect data on the zebras year-round.

Thank you to our supporters who contributed to the Round Up for Conservation Fund by saying “yes” when making purchases at the Zoo. The money you contributed is helping save endangered species worldwide and it is providing Erica, Trisha, Amy, and Gretchen with once in lifetime opportunities to help the wild counterparts of the animals they love at the OKC Zoo. Be sure to check our blog and social media applications for stories of their adventures in Africa!

– Dr. Rebecca Snyder, Zoo curator of conservation and science


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