New Alpine Zoo: a new opportunity to talk about all aspects of Conservation
President, Friends of the Moonridge Zoo
Moonridge Animal Park
Big Bear City, CA
Abstract: How often do we get a chance to start everything anew.
Moonridge Zoo is currently designing a new Zoo that will be 4 times larger than the current 50 year old zoo. What a wonderful opportunity to start a truly new Conservation conversation!! This is a brand new chance to “turn on the light” with thousands of people.
We are currently in the design stages of the entirely new facility… this means we can talk to our current visitors about the new enclosures details, infrastructure, medical care, enrichment, and mental health of each species. Our focus, currently and in the future, is on local conservation first, then global. We get the opportunity to expand our conservation conversations about each current species with Patrons, Docents, and Keepers.
Our Education program will take on an additional Conservation element as we begin actual construction:
- We can teach the local human residents about how to safely put a zoo in their neighborhood
- We welcome students from around Southern California to participate and learn why each element of the zoo is there.
- If visitors can SEE why we are doing certain things, they will learn more about conservation
- We get to ignite visitor interest in each section of the zoo, including a Serrano Indian section
- Enrichment programs… show how smart the animals really are
- Local students/volunteers can “help” with the construction by:
- Clearing brush that’s not native to the local area… and telling the story why it has to go
- Thinking about the local alpine/snowy environment as it relates to animal care.
- Protection from weather and predation.
- We are a rehab facility in the San Bernardino mountains at 7,000ft elevation, so we get animals from all over SoCal. We need to prepare for creatures that are at home in the alpine environment as well as, for example, shore birds from the lake… and this too opens the door to conservation discussions.
- Effects of shooting animals…why we had to amputate
- Trapping animals… is that really a smart thing to do.
- Road kill/traffic injuries… how to prevent/mitigate this problem.
- Good intentions… baby raccoon pickup, but momma is in the bushes watching.
The “Moonridge Wolf packs”
Our zoo and Curator have 20 years of experience with Canis Lupis families here in Big Bear Lake. We
currently use our two Wolf packs to attract the immediate attention of the zoo’s visitors. And this conversation opens the door to all sorts of Conservation talks. Our Keepers and Docents still refer to the 9-member Pack #6 as the “puppies” even though the puppies will turn 2 yrs old in April 2011. The “puppy” conversation always sparks the visitor’s love for young animals, and open the mind’s eye to a new view of the “big bad wolves”… and allows us to start the Conservation conversation about the real nature of wolves and other zoo residents, including our SSP creatures.
We talk about the birth of the 9 wolf puppies, how the puppies were fed hourly for the first few weeks, and how the Keepers had to “poop” the puppies in lieu of having a Momma Wolf there. This conversation always sparks a million questions, and provides a path to the visitor’s own experiences with raising baby kittens, puppies, hamsters, mice, etc… the wolf conversation immediately connects with the visitor. We draw reference to the Yellowstone experience with wolves over the last 50 years, but we don’t go into any detail about that experience since most folks know about the
Yellowstone/wolf story. The “hands on” details about our local “hand-grown” wolves is more important in starting the Conservation Conversation.
We don’t go into any scientific discussions about canis lupus RLUs, etc, but we do talk about why wolves howl, the wolf society within both of our Moonridge Packs, and explain that there have been very few verified reports of healthy wolves attacking humans despite all of the children’s stories about the “big bad wolf”. Almost without fail, every visitor to the wolf enclosures walks away with a smile on their face, and a new appreciation (love.) Of wolves and all top predators.
The Wolf society is alive and well in Big Bear. During feeding tours, we talk about the society as it relates to food… every wolf will eat in our Pack… they will share when necessary for the wellbeing of the pack. This dramatically demonstrates that most animals are better at Conservation than most humans. We ask questions about the comparison of the wolf society to the human society, and that allows us to bring in additional conservation concepts.
Visiting animal care professionals. We encourage local colleges and trade schools to participate in our Intern program. By giving these young professionals a chance to help with exotic/wild animals, we can multiply the “Conservation Conversation” enormously by asking the Interns to spread the conservation message to their schoolmates, hospitals, and practices.
Conclusion: the new Zoo naturally enables a new edition of Conservation Conversations with Keepers, Docents, and Patrons alike… what a wonderful opportunity to enrich our fellow human beings!!!