Asheboro, NC

Asheboro Zookeepers Mourn the Deaths of Beloved Animals

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It’s never easy to lose an animal, whether a beloved pet or an animal you are caring for, like with those animals who live at Asheboro’s zoological park. Some 1800 animals call the zoo their home, residing on the over 500-acre expansive zoo property, nestled within 2600 wooded acres in Randolph county. These animals of over 250 species are cared for by a staff of over 600 people and over 300 volunteers and interns.

When beloved animals die at the zoo, workers and volunteers mourn the loss and the news is often reported by local newspapers and television stations. Many of these animals, named, are the faces we’ve all come to know and love on our visits to the zoo.

Three Special Animals That Died This Year at the Zoo

In recent months the NC Zoological Park at Asheboro's Facebook page reported that a beloved ostrich, Pearl, a beloved harbor seal, Paco, and Tommo, the much-loved grizzly that had lived at the zoo for 26 years, were each euthanized for different health reasons. Each of these animals left its mark on the zoo staff and guests over the years. Here’s a little about these animals who spent a large part of their lives, and their final years, at the NC Zoological Park at Asheboro:

Paco the Harbor Seal

For 13 years, Paco the harbor seal entertained many with his handsome face and silly antics. Paco had a large mass on his lung and was euthanized over the summer this year. Keepers described Paco as “handsome and strong,” “super smart,” and that he “craved challenges” and was prone to roll his eyes at keepers who weren’t doing something quite to his approval.

Pearl the Ostrich

Pearl was a 19-year-old ostrich who resided at the zoo’s Watani Grasslands exhibit. While undergoing some veterinary care it was discovered that she had an advanced reproductive disease and the decision was made to euthanize. As quoted by ABC 11 News, it is clear some of the zoo staff were touched by the bright personality of Pearl the ostrich:

"Pearl was a bit of a diva! She had a sense for fashion and would often inspect the Zoofari crowds to pick out the earrings, watches, & cell phones she thought most flashy," keeper Jade said.

Tommo the Grizzly Bear

After 26 years at Asheboro Zoo, having been taken in as a “nuisance bear” who could no longer be in the wild, Tommo made his home and lived out his days among people who cared for him. Tommo had experienced some weight loss, lethargy, and general decline in health and was euthanized in July of this year. Tommo’s legacy is showing many people, school groups, and families over the years how important Grizzlies are and why it’s so important that we conserve precious habitat for this predatory species.

What the Zoo Does in Our Community

Housing the zoo in Randolph county brings jobs and revenue into the county, for sure, but the zoo also serves important conservation purposes. For example, in a recent blog post, the zoo shared about their support for the reintroduction of Visayan Warty Pigs back into the wild. Roger Sweeney, Director of Animal Management & Welfare, shared with us the story of these Visayan warty pigs and Visayan spotted deer and how the zoo is helping conservation efforts for these species.

Here’s what their website reported about this important release of the two species:

One component of the Zoo's conservation work for the Visayan warty pig has been the experimental reintroduction of 18 (10 males & 8 females) Visayan warty pigs bred under human care into the Danapa Nature Reserve 42,000-acre site in Bayawan City in the Negros Oriental Province. What was once an agroforestry site has been transformed into a habitat for native wildlife after a decade of reforestation work by the Bayawan local government. During this time, invasive tree species have been systematically removed, and more than 23,858 native trees have been planted in their place. – North Carolina Zoo Supports the Reintroduction of Visayan Warty Pigs Back Into the Wild, published December 3, 2021

The zoo participates and facilitates rehabilitation, breeding of underserved and threatened species, and also supports conservation efforts around the world. The money you spend at or donate to the zoo goes to support these efforts.

How You Can Support the Zoo

If you’d like to be a part of wildlife conservation efforts around the world, you can do several things:

  • Join the zoo! Your Zoo Society membership fees go to help the zoo contribute to wildlife conservation and research around the world, promote and advance standards and practices within the zoo industry, elevate the well-being of animals in zoos and in the wild, and continue education efforts in our community.
  • Visit the zoo! Your entry fees also support the zoo’s efforts to inspire people to respect, explore, care about and connect with nature.
  • Make a tax-deductible donation to the Valerie H. Schindler Wildlife Learning Center, which provides professional veterinary services for sick, injured, and orphaned animals rescued here in North Carolina. These animals are rehabilitated for safe return to the wild. To learn more about this program you can call 336.879.7644.

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