By Tim L. Tetzlaff, Naples Zoo Director of Conservation
During the winter months, Naples Zoo hosts an evening Conservation Lecture Series where you can meet some of the most extraordinary people dedicating their lives to saving nature. Of course, we do this to inform on current challenges, but more importantly, we need to share the hope that things really do change when people stand together. It’s both inspiring and also gives guests a personal chance to get behind a person they’ve come to know when these brave men and women head back to the field in countries where some have been shot at and colleagues have died protecting the animals we all love.
While our conservation history goes back decades, just since 2014 Naples Zoo has invested over one million dollars to save plants and animals in the wild. The speakers we host are typically the leaders of one of these 20+ conservation programs we support. Most are award-winning conservationists and several have been the focus of international documentaries. In the last few seasons, guests have learned how faux furs are protecting real leopards. They’ve felt the passion of one man who successfully raised awareness and the protection of giant armadillos – a 5’ long, 110 lb creature that many didn’t even know existed. Or how one couple has brought the plight of the world’s giraffes to global attention and what you can do to help these gentle giants for less than $100. We’ve also highlighted work in Asia where tiger numbers are growing as well as how zoos across the world are collaborating in Madagascar. Other expert speakers have highlighted local species including the growing number of bears and panthers, the protection of Florida’s endangered bonneted bats, and how science is being used to solve the riddle of managing invasive pythons. Another showed us how we can save songbirds and many other species simply by the choice of coffee we drink or what common items in the grocery store help tigers and elephants and which take away their forest homes. You can learn more about all of this and RSVP for upcoming lectures at www.napleszoo.org/speakers.
Planting Out of Poverty
On April 19, I’m especially delighted to welcome back John Leary, Executive Director of Trees for the Future. This organization has planted over 145 million trees to help raise families out of poverty and to combat desertification and water scarcity. Today, their Forest Garden efforts in Africa are quadrupling the income of families within four years and preventing forced migration and its tragedies – all for a one-time investment of $640 per family. Unknown to many, farmers have one of the highest rates of suicide globally. This program moves farmers who didn’t know if they would be able to feed their families at all to the point of being food secure and even generous givers in their community. See what hope looks like when John joins us later this month.
Also in Africa, Naples Zoo supports Ruaha Carnivore Project, headed up by Dr. Amy Dickman. This area had the highest documented level of lion killing in East Africa. As she shares, “The approach is always to work together with the community, rather than impose our own ideas.” Within a few short years, this method dropped lion killing by 80% in their core work area – with the reproach for killing cats coming from the local tribe, not the conservationist. How? She’ll be sharing how that came about so rapidly at the upcoming lecture series on the night of May 2. It’s an extraordinary story.
Getting More Personal
Some people will get to have an even more in depth experience with our conservation efforts. In October, I’ll have the honor of hosting two sold out safaris to Tanzania along with Naples Zoo’s Director of Animal Programs, Liz Harmon. We will be visiting African People and Wildlife near Tarangire National Park. Their impact is stunning. Their Chief Executive Officer Dr. Laly Lichtenfeld explains, “Our Living Walls are 99.9% successful in preventing attacks on livestock, which results in fewer retaliatory lion killings. No lions have been killed at homesteads where Living Walls are installed.” And a Living Wall costs just $500. If you’d like to be part of an experience like that, just email me to get information on our 2019 safari when it’s announced.
I hope you can join us for our two remaining Conservation Lecture Series this season and look forward to making an even bigger impact together for both people and wildlife. RSVP today at www.napleszoo.org/speakers.
Far from the simple menageries of the past, today’s nationally accredited zoos are centers of learning and natural crossroads for biologists, educators, environmental scientists, and researchers - as well as for students, conservationists, and all animal lovers. Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens is an award-winning, private 501(c)(3) nonprofit serving wildlife and families here and around the world. More information at www.napleszoo.org.