Save Snow Leopards with Snow Leopard Trust
As one of the charismatic species featured at Niabi Zoo, the story of the Snow Leopard has as much to do with education as it does conservation. The global population of this vulnerable species is estimated between 2,500 – 10,000 mature individuals. While poaching appears to have declined since the late 1990s, it is estimated that 221-450 Snow Leopards are still poached annually since 2008.
Niabi Zoo supports the Snow Leopard Trust which studies and tracks snow leopards in the wild and educates local people on how to live with and help snow leopards. In addition to funds raised through Coins for Conservation, consignment items from Snow Leopard Enterprises are sold in the Zoo’s gift shop to support the Livestock Insurance Program which compensates herders if a snow leopard takes one of their livestock, thus preventing retribution killings of snow leopards.
Preserve the Pollinators with Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation
Every third bite of food we put into our mouth is thanks to pollinators like monarch butterflies and bees. Many pollinator populations are in decline due to of the loss of native plants needed for food sources to agricultural monocrops. Niabi Zoo supports the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation to help show guests how to grow their own pollinator gardens to provide support to all pollinators.
Niabi Zoo has dedicated 20 acres of property to growing pollinator friendly native plants. The first two pollinator gardens established at the Zoo were funded by a grant from USFWS and Living Lands and Waters. Working in collaboration with the University of Illinois Extension Master Gardener and Master Naturalist programs, pollinator pocket gardens have been established throughout the Zoo. At each pollinator garden, Zoo Naturalists teach guests about providing milkweed for caterpillars, establishing pollinator friendly plants, tagging monarchs, and the importance of pollinators.
Support Whale Shark Research with Ch’ooj Ajauil (Blue Kingdom)
Just off the coast of Cancun, Mexico, north east of Isla Mujeres, gathers the largest aggregation of whale sharks in the world. Since 2002, Rafael de la Parra and his organization Ch’ooj Ajauil has led and coordinated whale shark research in the Mexican Caribbean. He and his team have tagged over 900 whale sharks, biopsied more than 200 whale sharks, published over 34 papers on whale sharks, and submitted over 5,800 encounters to the International Whale Shark Library. Yet, this has barely scratched the surface in understanding and protecting the world’s largest endangered fish.
In order to gather information on the whale shark population and habitat, brand new technology involving “real time” satellite telemetry and behavior tags is being employed. The production and implementation of this technology can be costly but the high return of data substantiates its value. These methods are being used to estimate the ecological behavior of whale sharks while analyzing the impact of tourism so as to improve the conservation practices for the species. Local, regional, and tour-based education programs are also needed to protect whale sharks. Niabi Zoo can contribute to greater understanding of the whale shark and the preservation of the unique marine habitat in Quintana Roo, Mexico.
Protect Painted Dogs with Painted Dog Research Trust
With field research as its guiding tool, PDRT is dedicated to the conservation of the endangered African Painted Dog. Research has been ongoing since 1989 by founder Dr. Greg Rasmussen, making his one of the longest studies of Lycaon pictus. Painted Dog Research Trust (PDRT) continues to construct a Conservation Ecology Center at their research site just outside Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.
The staff of PDRT has worked to establish an educational presence in their local area up to 20 km from their site. This has included bringing students from extension schools to the Conservation Ecology Center for on-site learning as well as sending an educator to local schools within 10 km for education outreach. With just one staff educator with limited resources, PDRT was in need of assistance in the development of an education strategic plan and formalized curriculum.
Niabi Zoo is positioned to provide the expertise required to advise PDRT staff in the development of an education strategic plan. Hosting PDRT field educator, Mahlebezulu Zulu, in 2019 Niabi was able to provide information and materials needed to implement educational programming that will have a direct impact on the conservation of the Painted Dog around the communities in which they live.