New Quarters for Conservation programs
While there are many reasons to visit Zoo Atlanta, the most central to the Zoo’s mission is the ability to provide direct support for vital field conservation projects. Projects for Bornean orangutans, giant river otters, and pollinators are the three newest beneficiaries of the 2020-2021 program year of Quarters for Conservation, an initiative that directs 25 cents of every general admission ticket to conservation programs for wildlife.
“We’re excited to introduce a fifth year of Quarters for Conservation. It’s very important that our visitors know that the mere decision to visit us has a far broader impact than just a day at the Zoo,” said Jennifer Mickelberg, PhD, Vice President of Collections and Conservation. “Quarters for Conservation helps us to bridge that crucial connection between our Members and guests here in Atlanta and wildlife around the world. Given that Zoo Atlanta and many other zoos are in need of support, this Quarters for Conservation program year is more challenging than previous years, but conservation is an aspect of our mission that is not placed on pause.”
Quarters for Conservation supports three new projects in each annual cycle. Projects are proposed, vetted, and championed by Zoo Atlanta team members.
Quarters for Conservation projects for 2020-2021
Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation, Borneo: Rampant deforestation linked to the global palm oil industry has significantly reduced orangutan habitats in recent decades, resulting in population declines that, if allowed to continue on current trends, could result in the extinction of both Bornean and Sumatran orangutans within the next 20 years. The clear-cutting of forests for palm oil production results in more than just a loss of habitat for these critically endangered great apes. Young orangutans are frequently separated from their mothers or orphaned as a result of these practices, resulting in psychological and physiological distress in what is considered the longest childhood of any terrestrial mammal with the single exception of humans.
The Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOSF) works to maintain, restore, and protect the forests that provide homes for orangutans and many other animals. BOSF also educates local communities on ways they can support wildlife and rehabilitates orangutans to be reintroduced to the wild, as featured in the series “Orangutan Jungle School.”
The Zoo Atlanta Quarters for Conservation Champions for BOSF are Primate Team members Brittney Lie-Tjauw and Mike Marazzi. Zoo Atlanta is home to four Bornean orangutans, as well as to six Sumatran orangutans, in one of North America’s largest zoological populations of great apes.
Save the Giants, Guyana: Known as “river wolves” for their roles as apex predators in their aquatic ecosystems, giant river otters are poorly studied in their native range in South America, resulting in unknown population trends and under-representation in conservation work. Primary threats to this endangered species include habitat loss and habitat fragmentation related to the agricultural fishing industry; the illegal wildlife trade; lack of law enforcement; and changes in the environment.
Save the Giants (STP) works to advance giant otter conservation by involving the local Guyanese community in otter population surveys to generate the information needed to make land management decisions. STG also provides training in best practices for sustainable, low impact ecotourism to create employment opportunities for local people.
The Zoo Atlanta Quarters for Conservation Champion for STG is Associate Curator of Mammals Kenn Harwood. Zoo Atlanta is home to two giant otters.
Xerces Society of Invertebrate Conservation’s Pollinator Conservation Program, United States: Pollinators provide an essential ecological service necessary for the reproduction of over 85% of the world’s flowering plant species, including many crops that support the global food supply. Most of this pollination is provided by insects such as bees, butterflies, wasps, flies, and beetles. Pollinator populations are declining in many areas as a result of habitat loss, pesticide use, and disease.
The Xerces Society’s Pollinator Conservation Program works to restore and expand pollinator habitat by advancing sustainable crop production practices and providing region-specific educational resources for individuals and communities dedicated to protecting pollinators.
The Zoo Atlanta Quarters for Conservation Champion for the program is Elephant Team member Catie Aubuchon. In addition to maintaining its own honey bee colonies on Zoo grounds, Zoo Atlanta also houses pollinator gardens and engages only in pollinator-friendly care of Zoo horticultural features.
Projects previously supported by Zoo Atlanta through Quarters for Conservation are Asociacion Armonia (Bolivia); Drill Ranch (Nigeria and Cameroon); the East Africa Vulture Project (Kenya); Elephants for Africa (Botswana); Giraffe Conservation Foundation (Africa); the Golden Lion Tamarin Association (Brazil); Lion Guardians (Kenya and Tanzania); Project Bush Dog (Argentina); Project Golden Frog (Panama); Rainforest Trust (Madagascar); the Tiger Conservation Campaign (Sumatra); and the Turtle Survival Alliance’s Radiated Tortoise Reintroduction Project (Madagascar).
In addition to Quarters for Conservation, conservation programs and partnerships supported by Zoo Atlanta are at work now for species and their habitats around the world. Support from Zoo Atlanta has influenced conservation projects in more than 20 countries. The Zoo also helps to fund other organizations working in the field through its Mabel Dorn Reeder Conservation Endowment Fund to make a meaningful impact on reversing species decline.
Visit zooatlanta.org for at-home educational activities associated with each of the three 2020-2021 Quarters for Conservation programs, as well as to learn more about everyday steps we can all take today to protect the species supported. Tune in to Zoo Atlanta Facebook and Instagram throughout the day on Tuesday, August 18 for exclusive content from the 2020-2021 Quarters for Conservation Champions.
Zoo Atlanta is open with new protocols and procedures in place to promote wellness and prevent the spread of COVID-19. These include timed ticketing (tickets must be purchased online in advance); a one-way experience through the Zoo; hand-sanitizing stations throughout grounds; and signage and other aids to encourage social distancing. Masks are currently required for general admission for all guests over the age of 10.