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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Trees for critters and people

Most of our conservation projects help people as much as animals. The African Waterhole and Dam Restoration project helps wildlife and the Maasai in Kenya, the newly funded Kibale Community Fuel Wood Project plants trees that are used both as sustainable fuel for the villagers who live near Uganda's Kibale National Park, but also create habitat for monkeys, chimps and other animals.

Because of this, we recognize the power that Nobel prize winner Dr. Wangari Maathai's Green Belt Movement in Africa has had. Dr. Wangari Maathai has defied custom, tradition, and her own government to carry out the groundbreaking reforestation and human rights work that won her the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004. Maathai’s Green Belt Movement, which has planted millions of trees across Africa, simultaneously embraces democracy and has played a crucial role in shaping modern Kenyan society. On September 19, she opens Seattle Arts & Lectures’ 20th anniversary season to speak of her place as a visionary on the world stage. For tickets or more information, call or visit: 206.621.2230, http://www.lectures.org/.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Taking a spin on the historic carousel

The zoo's "new" historic carousel is nearly 100 years old. Recently, one of the chariots was retrofitted to accommodate wheelchairs. It doesn't happen that often, but this week at the carousel we were happy to be able to give rides to about four disabled kids in wheelchairs. They were wheeled onto the ride, safely strapped in and off they went! It is very rewarding to be able to accommodate rides for disabled kids in wheelchairs, especially when we see the joy it brings to them.

The carousel, a gift from Linda and Tom Allen and the Alleniana Foundation, opened last year and has been delighting everyone who rides the hand-crafted, antique horses. Funds from the carousel ticket sales help the zoo by providing money for animal care and other operating expenses. And it's just plain fun! - Photo of carousel in "full spin" by Ryan Hawk

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Appreciating the snow leopard

On August 18, the zoo is hosting the first Snow Leopard Appreciation Day from 9:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. As you may know, snow leopards live in the mountainous areas in Central Asia and are increasingly endangered, with perhaps only about 3,000 or so left in the wild. Back in the 1980s, the zoo's former Education Curator, Helen Freeman, was particularly struck with these beautiful cats and formed the International Snow Leopard Trust, the oldest organization working to protect these cats. Over the years, the pressure on these animals has increased with people in snow leopard range areas poaching the animals for the illegal fur market or to protect their herds of goats and sheep that they rely on. What is now the Snow Leopard Trust, works with herding communities on anti-poaching programs and also has collaborated to create co-ops and other small businesses to help these people make a living from something other than poaching and to replace any income that may be lost from snow leopards feeding on their animals. The zoo has been SLT's partner since the beginning, and we are celebrating our 25th year together by hosting Snow Leopard Day. Join us and learn more about snow leopards, view and purchase craft items created by the people in snow leopard country and hear music that comes from these areas.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Maasai Journey: Controversy?

This summer the zoo launched its Maasai Journey, a presentation that highlighted the animals of East Africa. Part of Maasai Journey is the opportunity to meet and speak with four Maasai in person. Kibole, Kakuta, Kenneth and Sipoi are four Maasai hailing from a small, rural community in Maasailand in southern Kenya. The Maasai in their village, Merrueshi, are pastoralists, raising cattle for food. Because of this they live in very close proximity to African wildlife including giraffe, lions, zebra, hyenas and other animals that live on the savanna.

Kakuta Ole Hamisi, a junior elder at Merrueshi, has worked at the zoo the past six years, giving presentations about life in Maasailand, the challenges to his people and to the wildlife they share the land with. This summer, Kibole, Kenneth and Sipoi joined him at the zoo to give presentations that help paint a fuller picture of life in Kenya in a rural setting, which is mimicked in our African Village exhibit. The Maasai here are educators, speaking with zoo visitors and giving an accurate slice of life into their culture. Recently, a handful of academics have criticized the Maasai presence at the zoo, saying that having them here will lead people to "associate African people with animals and African Americans with animalism."

The zoo feels that this is misguided and incorrect; the conservation of wildlife and habitat is the duty of every culture and the Maasai are here to give their own interpretation, not a Western view. It is through the power of their experiences that can inspire our zoo visitors to care about wildlife and act to help preserve wildlife and habitat, whether in Africa or here at home. (Photo of Kenneth Sokoine Ntalamia by Ryan Hawk)