Endangered Species Day

By: Brenda, Director of Education and Volunteers, Audubon Zoo
Whooping Crane

I think that when most people think of endangered or threatened species they think of exotic animals or creatures in far-off lands.  Unfortunately, we all have endangered species that live much closer to home.  Those of us who live in Louisiana should be aware of the threatened species in our back yards.  The Audubon Zoo, along with U.S. Fish and Wildlife, will be helping school children and families learn a bit more about these animals at our Endangered Species Event at the Audubon Zoo on Friday, May 20 and Saturday May 21st.  

There will be special shows and chats that focus on endangered species and an educational “passport activity” that takes you around the Audubon Zoo to find out more about 4 endangered Louisiana animals.  The first on the passport is the non-venomous Louisiana Pine snake.  This big beautiful snake is becoming one of the rarest snakes in North America.  His demise is due to the decline in the pocket gopher (its dinner of choice) and the loss of longleaf pine forests.  We will have our friendly resident Pine snake “Bob” on hand to give you an up close "meet and greet".  You can learn about the great efforts our Audubon Zoo reptile department has made on breeding and releasing this species.

Next on your zoo travels will be the Whooping Crane.  These beauties are the tallest birds in North America.  There are only about 500 whooping cranes in the wild and captivity!!  That is the very brink of extinction.  These are the rarest birds in North America with only three flocks known to exist.  We have two for you to see at the Audubon Zoo and there are more at our Audubon Center for Research of Endangered Species.  Biologists there are working to boost the population of these endangered birds.

Heading deeper into the zoo you will look for the gopher tortoise.  The gopher tortoise is a unique tortoise in that it digs large burrows.  These burrows then become homes for other species, as many as 250 other species at one time or another!  These are what we call a “keystone species”.  We lose the gopher tortoise then a chain reaction of species loss happens.  We have three gopher tortoises in our collection.  You can meet “Rudy”, “Rocco”, or “Rambo”.  They have great faces and personalities.

Your last “passport stamp” will be at the Louisiana Swamp exhibit. The Louisiana Black bear is the official state mammal of Louisiana.  These large intelligent and shy animals were once common and now their numbers are in decline and the population is threatened.  Loss of habitat and human encounters continue to be their main threats. The Audubon Zoo has three black bears on exhibit.  “Eddie” is our older male sleeping somewhere in the yard and keep your eye out for the two younger females who like to cool off in the tower or the old bathtub.

Come visit the Audubon Zoo on May 20 and 21stand you will be making the first steps to protecting animals for future generations.   National Endangered Species Day is May 20.