In honor of World Gorilla Day, I’m excited to share with you ways that you can get involved in the fight to save gorillas. Before learning about what you can do to help save this critically endangered species, it is important to first learn how they became so endangered. 

One of the greatest risks to the gorilla species is loss of habitat, and this is largely due to the public’s demand on everyday products. There are several highly used materials found in the regions that gorillas call home. For instance, minerals used to create electronic devices including your cell phone, can be  found in The Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Congo is home to several species of gorillas, including the Western Lowland Gorilla that can be found right here at Zoo Knoxville. The mining for these minerals has caused massive destruction to their habitat. Palm oil is another popular substance found in nearby regions and used in an exorbitant amount of products. The production of this too has caused drastic deforestation to the African forests that gorillas inhabit. 

The good news is there is important work being done to proactively save gorillas, and you can be a direct part in making a difference. Below are 4 practical ways you can help:

 

1. Recycle your electronic devices

Here at Zoo Knoxville, we make it easy for you to recycle your old electronic devices. All you have to do is drop off your devices to one of our two designated areas. One of our drop off sites is in the Ranger Station located near the ticket window, and the other is located at our Gorilla Valley Courtyard. Eligible devices include cell phones, tablets, and MP3 players. By recycling these electronics, the need to mine for the materials within them is reduced. We’ve all had old devices lying around and often wonder what to do with them. How great is it that by simply dropping it off at the Zoo, your unused device can contribute to the fight to save the gorillas? Just make sure to restore to factory settings beforehand!

 

2. Look for sustainable, Eco-friendly options when shopping for products that contain palm oil

Palm oil can be found in many products we use each day. These products include: soaps, cosmetics, margarine, ice cream, shampoo, cookies, and so much more. Palm oil plants not only cause deforestation, but they also cause pollution due to burning of the forests and fertilizers used etc. Zoo Knoxville has joined almost 100 signatories from around the world in a statement committing to drive the palm oil industry in the right direction. There are many companies dedicated to obtaining palm oil in a more eco friendly way and just by shopping for these sustainable options you can also join us in this mission. If you’d like an aid in helping you shop more sustainably, click here to learn more about Cheyenne Mountain Zoo’s app created to help you do just that!

 

3. Become a member or visit an AZA accredited zoo

Because gorillas have become endangered and are losing their home in the wild, it is important for Zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums to take part in the Species Survival Plan. This plan allows these accredited Zoos like Zoo Knoxville to not only provide a safe home and care for animals in Zoos, but it also allows them to maintain a healthy genetic population. By becoming a Zoo member, you become a Zoo Keeper yourself and join Zoo Knoxville in continuing our critical conservation work not only pertaining to our Western Lowland Gorillas but all of the animals in our care. To Learn more about the Species Survival Plan and the SAFE (Saving Animals from Extinction) programs, visit aza.org. 

 

4. Become an Ambassador 

In addition to providing wildly fun experiences for our guests, Zoo Knoxville also has a mission to educate and inspire, but it doesn’t have to end with us. Now that you know more about what is happening in the world of gorillas, you can share the information with your friends and family to inspire them to take action as well. It’s hard to imagine contributing to the species saving efforts of animals with habitats on the other side of the world, but there are practical ways that you can help from home. Just by sharing these tips mentioned above with others, you can become an ambassador for Gorillas and join Zoo Knoxville and other AZA accredited zoos in the largest conservation movement on the planet!

“Fun on the outside, serious about animals on the inside.” We loved that sentence from the minute we first heard it from the creative director helping us design our new logo in 2015. “That’s us!” we said. And we’ve used it ever since to describe our personality and our culture.

But while we appreciate fun and light-heartedness, (and who doesn’t need that after the year we’ve all been through?), we realized that there is a time and place for us to talk seriously about why accredited zoos are important.

Some people love zoos, no reservations. Some people tell us zoos make them a little uneasy because they struggle with the thought of animals, not in their wild environments. Some people flat out dislike the concept of a zoo. We understand all of these reactions. Really. But we also realized that perhaps we had not been doing a very good job describing our reason for being, so here I am.

It’s our job as a modern zoo to provide the highest standard of care for the animals entrusted to us. It’s our mission to use our expertise in the care and breeding of endangered animals to save them from extinction. As a zoo accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), we are part of the largest conservation movement on the planet. Through the AZA’s Species Survival Plans and Saving Animals From Extinction (SAFE) programs, we are working with partners in the field to advocate, educate and protect animals.

You will read about some of those contributions in this blog as we share our stories and I hope you will be proud of the impact Zoo Knoxville makes.

Here at home, we hold our role as a beloved community asset and cultural treasure very dear. We continue to delight our visitors when they visit the zoo, providing a perfect setting to share our passion for animals. We are an important education resource touching thousands of people with our wildlife conservation message in unique and interactive ways.

In closing, Zoo Knoxville works hard to be among the best zoos in the country and to be part of something bigger in wildlife conservation. But ultimately, we can’t do it alone. We need you to achieve our mission, as ambassadors, as constructive critics to help us improve, and as members and supporters. Because we all have to be zookeepers if we are going to succeed in saving wildlife and wild places.

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Tiger courtship and breeding behavior is, well, complicated.  Tigers are solitary animals and only seek out a potential mate when it is time to breed.  Introduce them at the wrong time and you may find one or both tigers pretty unhappy to be in each other’s company, and risk a scuffle where someone could get hurt.

This is where behavioral science comes into the picture.  Asian Trek curator Petty Grieve has been carefully monitoring and documenting Arya’s behavior over the last several months. She has overlaid observed behaviors with hormonal analysis to determine what cues signal she’s ready to breed. After watching hundreds and hundreds of hours of video taken round-the-clock, and many pounds of tiger poop sent to the lab for hormone testing, Petty has found that Arya’s signs of cycling include vocalizations, restless movement at night, and frequent rolling around. These signs, combined with the insights on when to anticipate these hormonal spikes, have brought them to the next phase of their courtship, which is introducing Arya to male Bashir.

Arya has shown a preference for Bashir, and they often lock eyes when they see each other through the indoor viewing areas of Tiger Forest.  If they are compatible, the zoo will then begin to watch for breeding behavior while they are together. The gestation period for tigers is 90 days, and if introductions go well, the zoo could possibly be on cub watch in early 2020.

This introduction process is an important milestone in establishing Zoo Knoxville’s breeding program for Malayan Tigers.  With fewer than 400 estimated to be left in the wild, their future depends on the work being done in zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums to save them from extinction.

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