Whether they’re under rocks, soaring in the sky, chilling on glaciers, swimming in the sea or walking across plains, all animals big and small are recognized on World Animal Day for the natural beauty they bring to our environment.
At the Indianapolis Zoo, we’re proud to provide a home for more than 2,200 animals of more than 250 different species. Our animals are ambassadors for their species, and in many ways, each time you pay admission to see our animals, you’re also helping us help animals throughout the world!
The Zoo supports several global conservation initiatives that impact a wide variety of animals. These organizations work in various ways to protect countless creatures and our support allows these scientists and researchers to continue their efforts and preserve these species for future generations.
One of the most unique examples of the Zoo’s conservation efforts at work is in the Cheetah: The Race for Survival exhibit. Every guest who pays $1 and tests his or her speed against these fabulous felines in Race-a-Cheetah is directly supporting the Cheetah Conservation Fund in Africa. Since the exhibit first opened in 2010, the Zoo has raised approximately $48,000 in donations.
Among the many projects the funding has supported, proceeds from Race a Cheetah have paid for the care of two orphaned cheetahs for a year along with the rehabilitation and re-release of three more cheetahs. The Race-a-Cheetah exhibit has made thousands of Zoo guests into global conservation heroes, proving that even a small helping hand can make a huge difference.
In 2011 when the Zoo opened the Tiger Forest exhibit, we also began working with the Amur Tiger Conservation Project. The Zoo’s support provided funding for 15 tracking cameras that work as “forest eyes” and protect Amur tigers throughout Asia from the threat of poachers.
Another unique fundraiser the Zoo held back in 2012 helped some big animals in an even bigger way! By collecting donations for visitor parking in the days leading up to Super Bowl XLVI in February 2012, the Zoo raised $90,722 to support the Tarangire Elephant Project in Tanzania, Africa. Dr. Charles Foley, the project’s director, is using the funding to implement a new elephant tracking program that will provide new information to help further protect these beautiful creatures.
Through his research, Dr. Foley has identified nearly a third of the 2,500 elephants living in Tarangire National Park, and you can learn more about his fascinating work and the ways you can help elephants in Africa during a special presentation on Oct. 14 at the Hulman Riverhouse.
The next big project on the horizon for the Zoo is the new International Orangutan Center, opening in May 2014. This innovative exhibit was designed with the orangutans in mind every step of the way, and that includes supporting conservation of endangered wild orangutans. In their native homes in Borneo and Sumatra, orangutans are facing threats from habitat destruction and poachers. But through a new initiative, the Zoo is supporting the work of Dr. Anne Russon and her reforestation efforts in Kutai National Park, which will eventually help provide additional habitat and protection for these great apes.
These projects and others represent only a sampling of the animals Zoo guests are helping to preserve. By protecting animals such as cheetahs, tigers, elephants and orangutans, which are flagship species for the areas of the world where they live, these organizations create a waterfall effect that flows throughout an ecosystem and helps preserve the countless animals and species within it. This method of conservation allows individuals to make an everlasting impact that carries throughout the environment.
Photos by Mike Crowther (zebra and orangutan), Jason Wright (Race a Cheetah), Jackie Curts (cheetah) and Fred Cate (elephant).