OKC ZOO HOSTS SECOND-ANNUAL ASIAN ELEPHANT AWARENESS MONTH, INSPIRES LOVE FOR ENDANGERED SPECIES
August 03, 2020
The Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) are proud to celebrate the second-annual Asian Elephant Awareness Month campaign (AEAM), created in 2019, to raise awareness of the plight of Asian elephants and to empower the public to help save the endangered species. AEAM is a collaborative effort among AZA zoos and international elephant conservation partners, featuring community conservation events, learning opportunities and an engaging social media campaign, encouraging elephant enthusiasts to share their love for Asian elephants using #TONSoflove.
Why Asian Elephants?
While African elephants are classified vulnerable, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Asian elephants are endangered, facing unique challenges that threaten the species’ survival. Asian elephant populations in the wild have fallen below 40,000. The 13 nations that make up the natural habitat of Asian elephants contain the most dense human population on the planet and, as a result, elephants’ room to roam has been reduced by 85% in 40 years. Furthermore, Asian elephants are much more susceptible to elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus (EEHV), a fast-moving virus with a 60% fatality rate. Poaching for ivory is a major threat to all elephant species, but as only male Asian elephants have tusks, illegal hunting has resulted in a scarcity of males and a lack of genetic diversity in some wild populations.
“Because African elephants are most commonly top-of-mind in conversations concerning elephant conservation, the unique challenges Asian elephants face often go unnoticed by the general public,” said Rebecca Snyder, OKC Zoo’s director of conservation and science. “The ultimate goal of Asian Elephant Awareness Month is to engage with individuals and provide them with the tools they need to transform the conversation and educate others about the dire situation facing Asian elephants today. By doing that, we can heighten awareness of their plight and present actionable ways for the public to get involved to ensure the species’ future.”
#TONSoflove Social Media Campaign
The #TONSofLove campaign is a creative endeavor to encourage all wildlife fans to share their love of Asian elephants on social media from the comfort of their own home. To amplify the success and cohesiveness of this month-long outreach effort, individuals are challenged to feature a visual signal in their el-fies (elephant selfies), holding their hands in the shape of a heart. Fans are asked to include #TONSoflove, tag @okczoo and share why they love Asian elephants in their captions. All shared photos will be featured on the Zoo’s Facebook page throughout the month.
World Elephant Day
The OKC Zoo is celebrating World Elephant Day on Sunday, August 9, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., in the Zoo’s Sanctuary Asia elephant habitat. Presented by Bob Moore Subaru, Zoo guests are invited come together for Asian elephants and enjoy a scavenger safari, during which they’ll uncover extraordinary elephant factoids, helping them to complete the activity and be entered to win an Asian Elephant Wild Encounter for two! Prizes for completing the scavenger safari will include #TONSoflove temporary tattoos (while supplies last) and candy, made by companies observing sustainable palm oil practices. To ensure the safety of guests throughout the event, activities are designed to encourage social distancing.
This global event brings attention to how individuals can help conserve and protect these beloved animals. While visiting Sanctuary Asia’s elephant habitat, guests will have the opportunity to view the Zoo’s multi-generational herd of seven elephants – Asha, 25; Chandra, 24; Bamboo, 53; Kandula, 18; Rex, 51; Achara, 5; and Kairavi, 1. Guests are also invited to take an el-fie at the Bob Moore Subaru photo booth, located in the Zoo’s entry plaza. All World Elephant Day events are free with Zoo admission.
Collectable conservation wristbands, featuring an elephant design, will be available to purchase for $2 at the Zoo’s Guest Services office and stroller building. Proceeds support the Zoo’s conservation initiatives through Round Up for Conservation.
How the OKC Zoo & AZA Help Elephants
The OKC Zoo is dedicated not only to educating the general public about the plight of Asian elephants, but also conserving their wild counterparts through global partnerships. In addition to supporting the Northern Rangelands Trust since 2009, which protects elephants and other native species in Kenya, the Zoo partnered with the Rainforest Trust to purchase and preserve 13,000 acres of forest in central Sumatra and 18,000 acres of forest in Borneo, both of which are natural habitats for Asian elephants. The Zoo has also supported a number of other elephant conservation projects, including the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Rakhine Yoma Elephant Range Project in Myanmar and International Elephant Foundation’s conservation efforts in Sumatra. These projects support boots-on-the-ground teams that work to protect forests, prevent poaching and habitat encroachment, as well as mitigate human-elephant conflict. Since 2010, the Zoo has contributed more than $400,000 to elephant-related conservation. The Zoo is also an active participant in the Asian Elephant Species Survival Plan (SSP), developed by the AZA.
The AZA Saving Animals from Extinction (SAFE) program unites experts from around the world to implement strategic conservation and stakeholder engagement activities, measure conservation progress and build on established recovery plans, all in an effort to solve problems facing vulnerable and endangered species, including Asian elephants. Between 2012 and 2016, 41 AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums reported taking part in a variety of field conservation projects benefitting Asian elephants, including the mainland, Bornean, Sumatran, and Sri Lankan subspecies. Over those five years, the AZA community invested over $1.7 million in Asian elephant conservation, plus an additional $1.4 million to projects that focused on both African and Asian elephants, such as donations to the International Elephant Foundation.
Grab your el-fie stick, and help us raise a ‘trunk’ load of awareness this Asian Elephant Awareness Month! The Oklahoma City Zoo is open daily at 8 a.m. and advance tickets are required for all guests and ZOOfriends members. Tickets can be purchased at www.okczoo.org/tickets and are limited each day to ensure adequate social distancing between guests. The Zoo is open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. now through Labor Day, Monday, September 7, 2020.
Located at the crossroads of I-44 and I-35, the OKC Zoo is a proud member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the American Alliance of Museums, Oklahoma City’s Adventure District and an Adventure Road partner. Regular admission is $12 for adults and $9 for children ages 3-11 and seniors ages 65 and over. Children two and under are admitted free. Stay up-to-date with the Zoo on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and by visiting Our Stories. Zoo fans can support the OKC Zoo by becoming Oklahoma Zoological Society members at ZOOfriends.org. To learn more about this event and other Zoo happenings, call (405) 424-3344 or visit okczoo.org.