AKRON — Most zoo visitors and animal lovers alike seldom get to see the extent of important scientific conservation work done by zoos and aquariums because it often happens behind closed doors and off-site.
Nevertheless, the Akron Zoo strives to be a leading example of conservation efforts that benefit animals and their natural habitats as part of their lifelong mission.
For the Akron Zoo, conservation means preserving, protecting, and restoring the natural environment, ecosystem, vegetation, and wildlife. But at a closer glance, the zoo divides their conservation mission into five distinct arms that may look like independent initiatives. However, they work in tandem to make up the whole of the zoo’s conservation program.
In Akron Zoo’s Field Conservation, they refer to efforts that directly contribute to species’ long-term survival in natural ecosystems and habitats. This endeavor is reflected in their Conservation Fund program held by the Akron Zoological Foundation that supports local, regional, and global field conservation and research projects that aim to accomplish the same goals.
In their Conservation Research arm, their goal is to conduct research that helps protect species in the wild or which helps protect the long-term sustainability of currently non-sustainable captive populations.
Currently, the zoo is hard at work with the conservation of the critically endangered white-winged wood duck. The ducks are presently endangered by a disease called Mycobacterium avium, which jeopardizes the sustainability of the captive population due to shortened lifespans and decreased breeding success.
Through community events and exhibitions, the zoo strives to make “educational connections”.
“For us, education can be described as making connections. We are trying to connect every visitor to the animals at the zoo in a way that will benefit conservation of the species in the wild. This connection may take place when a zookeeper describes a personality trait of an individual animal or when an education specialist brings a snake to first graders encouraging a closer look,” they write on their page.
The Akron Zoo is a member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and is currently a part of 45 managed breeding programs or Species Survival Plans. In this branch of Akron Zoo’s conservation efforts, their ultimate goal is to care for each species indefinitely, which means managing sustainable animal populations. The zoo works closely with management programs to responsibly breed and care for endangered species to ensure genetic diversity well into the future.
Concerning the “Green Operations” branch of their conservation, the zoo sees sustainability and green initiatives to demonstrate their conservation mission through day-to-day operations, like optimizing energy and water consumption, managing chemicals and waste and participating in other environmentally conscious efforts.