Help Save Our Species
Presented by: Dick & Diane Tyk, Milwaukee County Zoo
We would like to give you an agenda of our presentation today.
A. Information describing Zoo Pride.
B. The Conservation Committee (we raise funds for projects involving conservation)
- a.How the committee got started and our very first project
- b.The purpose and evolution of the committee over the years what worked and what didn’t
- c. The tools used to raise funds for the projects
- d. The process of how projects are selected
- e. A presentation describing some of our projects and their success stories
C. Question and Answer Session
Zoo Pride, as our organization is known, was founded in 1975 and it is the Volunteer Auxiliary of the Zoological Society of Milwaukee County. Zoo Pride is made up of Docent and non-Docent volunteers. We work very closely with the Zoological Society and the Milwaukee County Zoo in supporting their goals. The Zoo Pride mission statement reads as follows:
The purpose of Zoo Pride is to support and promote interest in the programs of the Zoo and Zoological Society and to encourage voluntary participation in furthering these programs; to provide education for Zoo Pride members in order to increase their knowledge and understanding of the zoo, its animal collection and zoological conservation; to endeavor to extend such understanding and education to zoo visitors and the community.
Over the years Zoo Pride has grown from 65 members to almost 600. Zoo Pride members work on various committees as they support the organization. We have approximately 30 different committees, which provide various support services to the Society and the Zoo. These services vary from committee to committee and include but are not limited to things such as assisting during special events, manning Remains to Be Seen (artifact) Carts, working as a guide in the zoo, or our favorite committee and the topic of our presentation…the Conservation Committee.
In 1993, the Zoological Society approached Zoo Pride about raising money to purchase uniforms for park rangers at Lewa Downs. The Society asked Zoo Pride to raise half the funds for the uniforms and the Society would match those funds raised. It was decided to form the Conservation Committee and to raise funds by asking for donations for “S.O.S.” or “Save Our Species” buttons.
Lewa Downs in Kenya, Africa, is a preserve for endangered species, such as Black and White Rhinos and Grevy’s zebras. $2,000 was raised and the money was used to pay for uniforms worn by the park rangers protecting the animals. Lewa Downs is a working ranch and shows that livestock and wild animals can live in the same area without problems. It also provides jobs for the Kenyan people. Shops where furniture and rugs are made are located in the preserve.
This effort turned out to be the very first of many projects supported by the Conservation Committee. The purpose of the Conservation Committee probably seems pretty clear by now. We raise funds to support various conservation projects. We’ll highlight some of our projects later in the presentation. In the early years the going was a little tough. The Committee would select a project and borrow the funds from the Zoo Pride General Budget to pay for the buttons. Then funds were raised not only for the project we were undertaking but to pay Zoo Pride back for the cost of the buttons. Some years, we really had to scramble to raise the necessary funds. This also made it tough for the organization waiting for the funds. It would take at least a year before they would see the money!!
In 2004-2005, the Committee was able to change this procedure due to the generosity of our Zoo patrons. We raised more than enough funds for that project, almost double the amount we needed. This allowed the Committee to now purchase the buttons for the next project without borrowing from Zoo Pride and was a benefit to the recipient because we could pay the project upfront instead waiting a year later. This took a lot of stress off our members because we no longer had to scramble to raise the necessary funds.
What tools do we use to raise the funds for our projects? We use our Conservation Cart or our Conservation Table, if we can’t get the Cart to a location. The first Conservation Cart served its purpose, however it was somewhat poorly designed. You needed to lift the top of the cart to retrieve additional buttons if you were running low. This meant you had to clean off the cart and it was disruptive to the flow if you had a people looking at the buttons and asking questions.
The storage space inside the cart wasn’t very big and due to its design, could not be very organized. The wheels were also in sad shape. You really got a workout trying to push that cart around the zoo. Three years ago a few of the Conservation Committee members built the new and improved cart. As you can see by the photos, the cart is an attention getter. We receive many comments and compliments from Zoo patrons on how great it looks, including an offer to purchase our cart from us. By drawing the attention of the patrons, this new cart also helps us to talk to the patrons about our projects and conservation in general.
Then, of course, there are the “Help Save Our Species” Buttons. We work on a new project every year. We enlist the services of the Zoo’s Creative Department to design the buttons. They give us a few mock-ups of their designs and the Committee selects the one we like. Once the design is chosen, they also make the sign for the cart and a smaller version for the table that features the current button design. For the past several years, we have ordered 5,000 buttons for each project. Some years we ordered more or less than 5,000. Once the supply of a particular button has been exhausted, we don’t order any more and that button is retired. When the cart/table is out, we display a small supply of each variety of buttons we have available. The person making the donation can choose which button they would like. We have several patrons that look for the new button every year because they are collecting them.
We also have a shadow box that contains a button for every project. We use the shadow box to show patrons the previous buttons and it can be used as a starting point for further discussions on conservation. Many times the patrons ask about particular projects when they see the previous buttons. Of course, they also ask where they can get the previous buttons and we tell them that once we have exhausted our supply, they’re gone and we can’t get any additional buttons.
Occasionally, a patron will ask how much the buttons cost. They are actually asking how much they should donate. Because we are not “selling” the buttons, we tell them that we recommend a minimum donation of $1.00. This allows us to pay for the button and make money for the project we are working on. The buttons have been costing us approximately $.35 per button. Our Creative Department does a good job of helping to keep the costs down. We also use our best judgment when we are asked about the cost. When a patron, this is usually a child, is struggling to give us a donation and their heart is really into it, we will accept their minimal amount, which may be less than a $1.00. Most times you can just tell with people. Do we occasionally get burned…of course we do. We don’t really worry about it much because what we see most often is the exact opposite, people donating more than the $1.00 for a button. We have had people give us $20 and not want a button or give us $5-$10 for one button.
How do we select what project to work on? Zoo Pride’s fiscal year runs from October 1st to September 30th. The Conservation Committee works within these same dates. This means we need to have the new buttons ready to go by October 1st. We ask that the organization seeking our funds complete a proposal, we can provide the form if necessary, or they can submit a formal proposal of their own. The proposal needs to indicate what material items we will be paying for. We do not just give the organization money to be spent wherever; we require specific details. This will be more evident when we discuss some of our specific projects. We will accept proposals for our projects up to April 15th. This allows the Committee Chairs time to review the projects and prepare a presentation to the entire committee. The presentation is given to the committee members that are able to attend the meeting on the date selected by the Chairs. Then a vote is taken as to which project we will support. This is a simple majority vote by the Committee members in attendance. Once the project is selected, we start working with the Creative Department on the button design.
Now we’d like to tell you about some of the projects.
The 1998 project had a Bonobo on the button. $3,300 was raised to print an education booklet on the Bonobo. This booklet was distributed to school-aged children in and around the Solanga National Park in the Republic of Congo, Africa. Written material is a valued resource in the Congo and not much was or is available to these people, especially information on conservation and wildlife. The artwork used on the button was by Ms. Delfi Messinger, an American woman living and working in the Congo. She volunteered her time as the co-editor of a children’s magazine in the Congo called Bleu Blanc. Others who worked on the project also volunteered their time but the money raised by Zoo Pride went to pay a printer for the use of the equipment, supplies and the workers to collate the booklets. The booklet contained detailed information on the Bonobo as well as conservation information on the animal. At the time, this was the only product of its kind in the world and has since been reprinted with monies raised from other sources.
The 2001 project had Humboldt Penguins on the button. $3,000 was donated to the ecology study of the Humboldt penguin in Algarrobo, Chile. The proposal for this project was submitted by Dr. Roberta Wallace, DMV at the Milwaukee County Zoo. Dr. Wallace, with staff members of the Milwaukee County Zoo, as well as others from around the world, has been conducting this research project since 1994. $2,200 was used to purchase a more powerful laptop computer that could be used in the field. The computer allowed for the retrieval and sorting of large quantities of data more quickly. The laptop replaced an 8 year old desktop computer. $800 was used to purchase a digital camera, also used in the field. Before the purchase of the digital camera, pictures were taken in the field and the film was brought back and developed in the U.S. The pictures may or may not have been what the project had hoped for. With the use of the digital camera, it could be determined immediately if the picture is what was needed. We later added an additional $300 for the purchase of books that Dr. Wallace requested for the research team in Chile.
The 2004 project had a Thick-billed Parrot on the button. $2,500 went to the World Bird Sanctuary in St. Louis, MO to purchase material to be used in construction of a breeding aviary. The materials were purchased and the labor to construct the aviary was donated by the local Boy Scouts. By April of 2004 the aviary was complete, the landscaping had been installed, and the birds had made themselves at home. The World Bird Sanctuary has served as the caretakers of one of the last breeding flocks of Thick-Billed Parrots in the world. Many Americans have no idea the birds ranged in the wild in Arizona, New Mexico, and Mexico and hover on the verge of extinction. Due to habitat destruction and human encroachment, these parrots are now only found in highland forests, pine forests and foothills of northern and central Mexico; mainly, the Sierra Madre of northwestern Mexico in the Chihuahua Forest. The Thick-Billed Parrots were never studied intensively in the field and much of what is known about their behavior has been gleaned from observations of captive flocks. This further increases the importance of the flock of the World Bird Sanctuary, as the majority of the birds in the flock were originally captured from the wilds of Mexico. Ongoing behavioral observation and analysis has resulted in the publication of two studies to date.
The 2006 project had a Jaguar on the button. $2,500 went to the Borderlands Jaguar Detection Project. We were contacted by Shiloh Walkosak, a zookeeper at the Reid Park Zoo in Tucson, Arizona to purchase an ATV for use in the Borderlands Jaguar Detection Project. This project is a non-invasive study designed to detect jaguars in the remote mountains along the border between southern Arizona and Sonora, Mexico. The information gained from this study will be invaluable to government agencies from the United States and Mexico to make sound management decisions concerning conservation of the jaguar and its habitat. The Reid Park Zoo, the Phoenix Zoo, and Humboldt State University have been working with this project to track jaguars that have been found living outside of Tucson. The jaguars that have been sighted in Arizona have been caught on remote cameras which have date/time stamp information and can be definitely identified by the number of spots and rosette patterns. These jaguars have been outside Tucson for more than 3 years now.
Most people are unaware that jaguars were native to the American Southwest. Due to human encroachment, they migrated south. The Federal Government will not put jaguars on the protected list without more proof they are living in the U.S. The Borderlands Jaguar Project will place tracking devices on these animals. To do this they need to capture them and bring them to an area where the devices can be attached. The ATV allows them to transport the cats and allows the researchers to travel around to the 30 remote cameras for film collection and replenishing. This proof and the applications of the Reid Park and Phoenix Zoos will be used to try to convince the government to place these animals on the protected list. Jaguars have now also been found in Texas and New Mexico.
For more information regarding the Borderlands Jaguar Detection Project, please visit their website at:
The 2007 project had a Panama Golden Frog on the button. Milwaukee County Zoo Deputy Director, Dr. Bruce Beehler and Curator, Craig Berg requested our help. $2,500 went to purchase medication and medical supplies to help save the Panama Golden Frog and other amphibian species. This was a crisis situation and Craig Berg would be taking the supplies to Panama ASAP.
A deadly fungus, chytridiomycosis, is creeping through Panama, killing hundreds of thousands of amphibians and putting the country’s national symbol (similar to our Bald Eagle), the Golden Frog, at risk of extinction. The fungus has the capacity to completely wipe out populations of any size, and if the fungus doesn’t kill the animals, the areas where they can be found are being deforested and polluted or developed. Within 4 months it had wiped out 57 of a total of 70 frogs, toads, and salamander species including the Golden Frogs in the area.
Since 1999, project Golden Frog has been studying Panamanian Golden Frogs in and around El Valle, Panama and managing several populations in the U.S. In 2005, Zoo Atlanta and Atlanta Botanical Garden rescued dozens of other imperiled amphibian species from around El Valle and at nearby diseased sites for management in the U.S. Later that year, the Houston Zoo began construction of an amphibian conservation facility on the ground of the El Nispero Zoo in El Valle. The El Valle Amphibian Conservation Center (EVACC) is a place for Panamanians to mange their own threatened amphibians. 6,000 frogs were saved in 2006 and are currently residing in the EVACC. Until the fungus has been eliminated, the frogs will not be able to be released back into the wild.
Following the successful rapid-response treatment and rescue protocol developed by the Atlanta Group, CBSG (Conservation Breeding Specialist Group) is coordinating a similar effort to seize and treat sick amphibians endemic to the El Valle region.
Our project for 2008 has a Bald Eagle on the button. This is a dual project for two wildlife centers. $1,000 went to the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center and was used to purchase 40 4’x 8′ plastic panels (waterproof bathtub surround liner panels). This will allow the center to meet the new USDA permit requirement for their collection of 15 birds of prey. The new standards mandated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services and the USDA require that they have scrub-able walls in their outside flight mews. Presently they have plywood walls that need to be replaced since they do not meet the revised requirement per the USDA inspectors. In this collection are threatened species such as the peregrine flacon, barn owl and our national symbol the bald eagle.
Founded in 1971 the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center has established itself as a leader in environmental education, conservation and land stewardship. Their Sky Hunter raptor program reaches tens of thousands of individuals annually with its message about the importance of these specialized birds of prey. The second part of the project sent $1,500 to the Pine View Wildlife Rehabilitation Center. This center takes injured wildlife and nurses them back to health. Due to an influx of injured raptors they need to build additional cages for the birds. Also they had an immediate need to modify a room that could be used to rehabilitate reptiles.
Zoo Pride is proud of the work the Conservation Committee is doing. Who knew that a small button could make a big difference? We’d be happy to answer any questions you have at this time. Or feel free to come up and take a look at our table. We’d be happy to accept any donations you’d like to make!