By Carrie Flood

Did you know the Arizona Center for Nature Conservation/Phoenix Zoo support conservation projects around the world? It’s a big part of our mission. Scientists and groups working to save endangered animals and their habitats can apply for grant money to help with the costs associated with their important work. This is not a new idea for zoos; Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) members began the shift from being primarily places where people can look at animals to leaders in worldwide conservation efforts years ago. To give you an idea of the scale of this movement, in 2016 alone, 217 of AZA’s accredited institutions and certified related facilities reported spending $216 million on more than 3,400 conservation initiatives in 127 countries. We are proud of our contributions to conservation around the globe.  

The Phoenix Zoo began offering conservation grants in 2009. For the fiscal year 2017-2018, grant awards and conservation contributions topped $91,000. Some projects such as the Grevy’s Zebra Trust and Ruaha Carnivore Project have been awarded grants for several years and connect directly to animals that we have in our care.  Others, like the Giant Armadillo Conservation Project, are newer to the scene but making a big impact.

Staff can also apply for funds to participate in conservation. Members of our staff have travelled the world to help different aspects of conservation initiatives, from building giant nest boxes for hornbills in Malaysia to hauling bamboo up mountains in Ecuador for Andean bears, the projects are as diverse as our staff. Some projects take place right here on grounds, such as behavioral research on the courtship and chick rearing of vultures in the savanna habitat, which helps researchers working to save their wild counterparts in Africa. (I’ll try to highlight some of these cool projects in future posts.)

I can’t speak for everyone who works here, but I know that for me, having the opportunity and support to directly contribute to conservation work is a huge job perk. I was awarded my first staff grant in 2010 and traveled to Madagascar where I taught conservation education programs for a rural village school and helped protect a critically endangered patch of forest, the local people who depend on it and the unique creatures that call it home. The experience was invaluable to me but benefited the zoo as well. Not only can the Phoenix Zoo proudly claim to support this important work, but I can incorporate lessons learned and first-hand experience in my job as an educator. Everyone wins.

You’ll be subjected to my stories from the field in some future post as well, but meanwhile… give yourself a pat on the back, knowing your support helps us do our best to save the planet.

Well done, you. >high five<