Today, zoos and aquariums across the country are marking the 10th anniversary of Endangered Species Day by highlighting a collaborative effort to save endangered species from extinction. Two local nonprofit conservation organizations, Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo and The Florida Aquarium, will participate by having their endangered African penguins “vanish” from exhibit for a short time to illustrate the growing extinction crisis.
“Vanishing” Animals Part of a National Effort to Highlight the Growing Extinction Crisis
Tampa, Fla. (May 15, 2015) — Today, zoos and aquariums across the country are marking the 10th anniversary of Endangered Species Day by highlighting a collaborative effort to save endangered species from extinction. Two local nonprofit conservation organizations, Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo and The Florida Aquarium, will participate by having their endangered African penguins “vanish” from exhibit for a short time to illustrate the growing extinction crisis.
The vanishing African penguins are part of a larger, national effort organized by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA), of which Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo and The Florida Aquarium are accredited members. Across the country, 229 AZA-accredited members are coming together in a variety of ways to help the public envision a world without these incredible animals. This collective effort is designed to raise awareness of a new initiative known as AZA SAFE (Saving Animals From Extinction).
For decades, AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums have been leaders in species survival, and are already working to restore more than 30 species to healthy wild populations.
In 2015, SAFE will focus on 10 species and then add an additional 10 species each year for the next 10 years. The inaugural 10 species include: African penguins, Asian elephants, black rhinoceros, cheetahs, gorillas, sea turtles, vaquitas, sharks and rays, Western pond turtles and whooping cranes.
Of the inaugural 10 species, Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo houses African penguins, cheetah, stingrays and whooping cranes. The Florida Aquarium houses African penguins, sea turtles, sharks and stingrays.
“AZA aquarium and zoo conservationists have identified more than 100 species facing the greatest threats and where accredited zoos and aquariums have unique conservation and science knowledge to contribute,” Jim Maddy, AZA President and CEO, said. “Today, we’re demonstrating just how profound the loss would be if we don’t take action now to protect wildlife. More importantly, we are also explaining to the public just what AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums are doing to save animals from extinction.”
For African penguins, time is running out. In their range country of South Africa, penguin colonies are declining at an alarming rate: more than 60 percent in the past three decades. The dramatic population decline is attributed to a combination of factors: reduced food supply due to commercial fisheries; changes in habitat due to shifting prey populations; and catastrophic events like oil spills. At the current rate, scientists estimate the species may trend toward extinction within 20 years.
Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo opened its African penguin habitat in 2007, with the first chick hatched in 2011. Today, the Zoo maintains the only breeding group of African penguins in the state of Florida, currently home to five breeding pairs and several offspring. At the Zoo, guests are invited to discover the rookery of 14 endangered African penguins, hear daily keeper talks, and see penguin feedings up close. In 2014, the Zoo launched an initiative known as “Protecting African Penguins” to double the size of its penguin nursery to have more room to raise more chicks. Individuals or businesses that wish to contribute to the Protecting African Penguins initiative can visit www.LowryParkZoo.org/Penguins.
The Florida Aquarium’s African Black-footed penguins waddled their way to the Aquarium in 2006 and instantly became a guest favorite. The Aquarium offers daily Penguins Backstage Pass tours for guests to meet and learn more about these animals up close and opened a permanent exhibit call Penguin Point in March 2014. The Aquarium actively fund raises for these endangered animals during Penguin Appreciation Week as well as their Penguin Waddle 5K Family Fun Run.
Public Asked to Help Save Animals from Extinction
One of the easiest conservation actions the public can take is to visit an AZA-accredited organization like Tampa’s Lowry Park Zooor The Florida Aquarium. Doing so directly supports the collaborative efforts of hundreds of researchers, field conservationists and scientists working to save animals from extinction.
About The Florida Aquarium
The Florida Aquarium is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit institution whose mission is to entertain, educate and inspire stewardship about our natural environment. The Florida Aquarium is home to more than 20,000 aquatic plants and animals representing species from Florida and around the world.
About AZA SAFE: Saving Animals From Extinction
AZA SAFE: Saving Animals From Extinction combines the power of zoo & aquarium visitors with the resources and collective expertise of zoos and aquariums accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums and partners to save animals from extinction. Together we are working on saving the most vulnerable wildlife species from extinction and protecting them for future generations. To learn more, visit AZAsavingspecies.org. Follow the online conversation via the hashtag #SavingSpecies.