From the left: Stephanie DeLaGarza; Sandra Turner; Bill Gersonde; Paige Rudasics; Roy Greer; Joy Harsh; John Black; Jessica Scherry.
The Abilene Zoo is a small 16-acre (6.5 ha) zoo in Abilene, Texas that is making a big difference to conservation efforts around the world. Recently, it donated $5,000 to the Chipembere Rhino Foundation to support its efforts in protecting the rhinos in Southern Africa.
The Abilene Zoo is home to more than 1,000 animals, representing 250 species. Primarily funded by the City of Abilene and the Abilene Zoological Society, the zoo has been an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) since 1985.
The Abilene Zoo participates in and supports a variety of conservation programs including the AZA Species Survival Plan. The mission of an AZA Species Survival Plan® (SSP) is to manage and conserve a select and typically threatened or endangered captive population of a certain species. AZA institutions currently manage more than 115 SSP Programs, each of which is responsible for developing a Master Plan that identifies population management goals and recommendation to ensure the sustainability of a healthy, genetically diverse, and demographically varied population.
Through the Abilene Zoo Conservation Fund, financial support is provided to reputable organizations that perform a variety of conservation-based activities, research and support. One such project is the Abilene Zoo Quarters for Conservation initiative.
Abilene Zoo Quarters for Conservation
Since October 2015, $.025 of each admission to the Zoo is donated to the Abilene Zoo Conservation Fund. Each year, three organizations are selected as beneficiaries of the funding raised. Zoo guests vote for one of the three featured organizations to receive the funding by dropping a token into a vortex wishing well at a conservation kiosk. At the end of the voting year (September), the selected organizations receive a donation of either $10,000; $5,000; or $2,500 based on the number of votes each received.
“The Chipembere Rhino Foundation was selected as one of three featured organizations in the 2017 Abilene Zoo Quarters For Conservation project, because of its strong efforts to curb poaching and habitat loss of critically endangered Black Rhinoceros,” says Paige Rudasics, Chair of the Abilene Zoo’s conservation committee. “The funds raised from this project to will to help support rhino conservation efforts in Africa.”
The other two organizations featured this year included the African People and Wildlife Fund and The Peregrine Fund.
The African People and Wildlife Fund works with lions and their conservation efforts involve local communities in the conservation of local resources and wildlife. In the past two decades, Africa’s lion population has decreased by 42%. Expanding human populations and habitat loss have forced lions into closer quarters with humans, resulting in the loss of many lions. The Living Walls project helps keep lions safely separated from local livestock and saves the lives of an estimated 150 lions each year.
The Peregrine Fund was nominated for their work and collaborative partnerships throughout Africa to create an effective, widespread response to the threats facing African vultures. Seven out of the 11 African vulture species are on the verge of extinction; their populations have decreased by 95% over the last 30 years. The vultures are poisoned, captured for use in traditional medicine, and deliberately killed by poachers because their presence can alert authorities to the presence of poached carcasses.
“We are excited to announce that the Chipembere Rhino Foundation received a $5,000 donation as a result of this project. This donation was celebrated at the annual Abilene Zoo conservation reception where each recipient was acknowledged for the work that they do,” says Paige. “Thank you to the Chipembere Rhino Foundation for your commitment to preserve the iconic rhino species. We are excited to be supporting the great work that you do for wildlife conservation”.
Since inception, the Abilene Zoo Quarters for Conservation project has raised over $80,000 for the global conservation projects that they support, resulting in huge gains in conservation funding and public awareness. Next year, it will support South American-based projects benefiting Cotton-top Tamarins, Parrots, and Frogs.
“This is fantastic news!” says Brent Cook, founder of the Chipembere Rhino Foundation. “We are truly thankful for the support from The Abilene Zoo and your guests. The funding will go a long way in bolstering our ongoing projects.”