The Indianapolis Zoo's Parking Lot Provides Conservation Legacy
In 2012, Indianapolis was honored to be the host city for Super Bowl XLVI, and it was a rare opportunity for nearly everyone in the community to become involved at some level during the weeks and days preceding the big game. The Indianapolis Zoo was no exception as it promoted its unique rental facilities to organizations and guests and provided its large, superbly located, downtown parking lot to the National Football League and the Host Committee for a variety of uses.
For the Zoo, parking and opportunity then became the key words in developing a plan that would provide a Super Bowl legacy that no one had envisioned. In a novel approach to conservation fundraising, the Zoo charged $15 for members and $20 for non-members for parking in the days leading up to the Super Bowl, and a flat fee of $50 on Super Bowl Sunday. The fundraiser netted an astonishing $90,722 to support the Tarangire Elephant Project (TEP) in Tanzania, Africa, helping to save the lives of threatened African elephants.
The TEP operates in Tarangire National Park in northeast Tanzania along the east coast of Africa, and has been committed to the conservation of the African elephant for the past 20 years. The Indianapolis Zoo has been a significant supporter of the project since 2006.
Dr. Charles Foley, the founder and director of the Tarangire Elephant Project, wrote in an email from Tanzania, “This amazingly generous gift from the Zoo and the fans of the Super Bowl was totally unexpected but will make it possible to immediately start an important new elephant radio collaring project to further protect elephants in Tanzania. The collars send signals that allow researchers to track elephants as they follow often risky migration corridors in and out of the park. This project is crucial to linking the elephant populations in eastern Tanzania with those in the west, helping reduce poaching and conflict situations between elephants and humans.”
Tanzania is home to the second largest population of elephants on the African continent and is an important refuge for animals from poachers. Traditional migration routes used by the Park’s animals have been disrupted in recent years by human settlement and agriculture. The TEP works to stop human encroachment into the last remaining open migration corridors while providing local inhabitants with economic incentives.
Even if they missed out on the Super Bowl parking phenomenon, elephant fans everywhere have two ways to help save this magnificent and intelligent animal, the largest land animal on earth.
The truly adventurous can see Dr. Foley in action on a Zoo-sponsored trip to Tanzania in early November. The Tarangire Elephant Project headquarters will be one of the first stops on the trip, giving travelers an opportunity to meet with Charles and his wife, Lara Foley, and see one of the largest elephant populations in northern Tanzania. For more information on this trip, interested travelers can contact the Zoo directly at (317) 630-2018 or check out the itinerary online.
The Indianapolis Zoo sends financial support to Dr. Foley every year, and a portion of any money spent at the non-profit Zoo goes to support the Tarangire Elephant Project and other vital conservation programs throughout the world.
Connections to the Indianapolis Prize
The 2010 winner of the Indianapolis Prize, the world’s leading award for animal conservation, was Dr. Iain Douglas-Hamilton, founder and president of Save the Elephants, another organization that is working daily to preserve African elephants. Dr. Douglas-Hamilton, whose work focuses on elephants in Kenya, is an icon in the conservation community and deserving of joining the ranks for previous Prize winners, including the world’s premier field biologist, Dr. George Schaller, and International Crane Foundation co-founder, Dr. George Archibald.
Two nominees for the 2012 Indianapolis Prize also have direct connections to elephant conservation, including Markus Borner, Ph.D., of the Frankfort Zoological Society and founder of the first Community Conservation Program in the Serengeti, and Lisa Hywood, who founded the Tikki Hywood Trust in her effort to preserve Zimbabwe’s wildlife through captive breeding, monitored release of endangered species and conservation education.
More information on conservation projects worldwide supported by the Indianapolis Zoo.