The Philadelphia Zoo Continually Spreads Its Wings Outside the City

With the celebration of World Heritage Day at the Philadelphia Zoo approaching on May 24th, we should remember how much our zoo reaches outside of Philadelphia.

The zoo is engaged in a number of international initiatives, particularly centered around conservation.  For example, every year the Zoo hosts the Global Conservation Gala, in which the zoo honors individuals and organizations who have worked to ensure meaningful conservation efforts around the world. This year, the Gala is taking place on October 4th, and will be awarding the Conservation Impact Award to Thomas Dolan IV. Mr. Dolan worked as an aquatic entomologist and freshwater ecologist for the Academy of Natural Sciences, as well as the Director of the Wissahickon Valley Watershed Association in the 1960’s.

In addition, the Zoo works with other outside organizations to see to these efforts as well. One of the largest of these programs is the International Amphibian Conservation Program. In the field, the zoo has had personnel working with staff in local groups in Haiti, Ecuador, Peru, and Columbia. What’s more, the zoo itself has rescued and brought over 154 individual frogs, representing nine of the world’s most endangered amphibian species, all found only in Haiti. That same year, they began devising an action plan to reverse the collapse of biodiversity in Haiti. Today, the off-site colony at Philadelphia Zoo contains more than 1,500 individual amphibians— all deemed critically endangered by the IUCN. The Philadelphia Zoo is currently the only zoo in the world raising some of these frogs in captivity, and is working closely with the Haitian government to develop a long-term conservation strategy for amphibians.

In addition, one of the Philadelphia Zoo’s partners lived and worked for some time in Sumatra, Indonesia. At the time, Erin Poor was a PhD student conducting research with the Virginia Tech Sumatran Tiger Project, a Philadelphia Zoo Global Conservation Prize winner. Erin studied the detailed habitat use and movements of tigers in the Riau Province Conservation Landscape in order to identify which areas of palm oil plantations tigers use and why.

A particularly interesting case was when Vice President of Conservation Kim Lengel and veterinarian Tim Georoff traveled to the Rodrigues in Mauritius to accompany 30 Rodrigues fruit bats back to Philadelphia Zoo. In the 1970's, the entire world population of Rodrigues fruit bats (named for the island that makes up their only native habitat) had dropped to less than 100.  Today, the species is in rebound, thanks in part to The Rodrigues Environmental Educator Project, which works with school, community, government and business groups to encourage and support Rodrigues' unique plants and animals. Kim Lengel kept a very entertaining blog during the entire trip that brings great insight into how conservation efforts like these are carried out.

More information on Philadelphia Zoo’s Conservation efforts can be found here.

Article written by Will Becker for Global Philadelphia Association