Nestled at the edge of beautiful Roscoe-Conkling Park, we strive to set an example for conservation and environmental stewardship in the surrounding area. Our long-standing mission has been to “foster public understanding and appreciation of wildlife species and their ecosystems through education, conservation, and recreation” At a time when zoos are playing an increasing role in habitat preservation and species survival, we recognize the significance of any conservation effort no matter the scope, and are proud to participate in a number of local and national projects.
Ex-situ conservation is the process of protecting an endangered species of plant or animal outside of its natural habitat. SSP, or Species Survival Plan, programs are designed by AZA to manage captive populations of threatened and endangered species within North American zoos and aquariums and are one of the primary ways that the global zoo community is working to combat extinction. In some instances, this may mean the zoo is asked to breed a species to help increase their numbers. In others, this means simply providing homes to animals that are not in a breeding program or are otherwise not able to be released into the wild due to injury or human intervention. Some species in these programs have been successfully reintroduced into their native habitat.
The Utica Zoo has always been an enthusiastic partner in these programs, and we currently have several SSP animals, including red panda, ring-tailed lemurs, white-naped crane, Mexican wolves, Chinese alligators, California sea lions, white-handed gibbons, Mexican spider monkeys, golden lion tamarins, cotton-top tamarins, and prehensile-tailed skinks.
Learn more about SSPs
In-situ conservation is the process of protecting an endangered species in its natural habitat. For a zoo of our size, it can be difficult to commit significant monetary resources to these types of projects, but with the help of our recycling and candy machine programs, we are able to provide small grants to select organizations that are on the ground in range countries. In the past, we have contributed to such organizations as the Peregrine Fund and Snow Leopard Trust. In 2015, we began partnering with the Nature Conservancy and the NYS DEC to improve and expand habitat for the State Threatened frosted elfin butterfly at the Rome Sand Plains Nature Preserve. Together with other volunteers, our staff and interns help plant blue lupine seedlings, which are an essential food source for frosted elfin caterpillars. We have also provided staff assistance to programs such as monitoring and numbering of the Chittenango Ovate Amber Snail, a species believed to be endangered in a small area of upstate NY; as well as field studies of turtle populations in the Utica Marsh ecosystem. We will continue to add to our program participation through funding and staff participation in in-situ research.
Here at the zoo, we believe that even small steps can influence big changes. From using energy efficient light bulbs to collecting rainwater for watering plants, it all makes a difference! With that in mind, we have several different recycling and composting stations throughout the zoo that guests are free to use. We also have a recycling drop box outside of the entrance that can be used when the zoo is closed.
We have partnered with Empties4Cash and The Funding Factory to launch a recycling program for ink cartridges and cell phones. Both of these items can generate a huge amount of waste, some of which is potentially toxic, when disposed of in landfills. All makes and models are accepted for recycling and all of the proceeds generated from these programs will be used towards conservation projects here at the zoo. Look for the containers in the gift shop, and turn them in at the zoo instead of tossing them in the trash!
The Utica Zoo is now participating in Project FeederWatch and Seafood Watch. Project FeederWatch is a national winter long program designed to monitor the types of bird that are visiting our feeders and the surrounding area. FeederWatchers count the birds from November through early April and send their results to FeederWatch staff. The data helps scientists track broadscale movements of winter bird populations and long term trends in bird distribution and abundance. To learn more about the program and how you can participate, please visit FeederWatch.org
Seafood Watch is a national program started by the Monterey Bay Aquarium that helps to raise public awareness about sustainable seafood issues and encourages restaurants and distributors to purchase from sustainable sources. To learn more, please visit SeafoodWatch.org
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Enrichment Besides the day to day cleaning and feeding of the animals, the animal keepers are also responsible for Environmental Enrichment and Training.