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Four ways the Central Florida Zoo advances animal conservation

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Four ways the Central Florida Zoo advances animal conservation

Our mission is to serve as a conservation resource providing experiences that excite and inspire children and adults to learn and act on behalf of wildlife.

By empowering and educating guests on appreciating our natural resources, our Florida zoo also commits to contribute globally to the preservation and conservation of wildlife. One of the best parts about our Sanford zoo is that we put our mission into action, so you can see it firsthand.

So if you’re wondering, “How do zoos protect endangered animals?” or “How do zoos help conservation?”, here are just four of the ways we work hard every day to make a difference in the animal conservation.

Eastern Indigo Snake Conservation Program

The eastern indigo snake is America’s longest snake, with the ability to reach up to eight feet long. It is also a threatened species, as habitat loss and fragmentation and the reduction of the gopher tortoise population have led to a decline. The Zoo’s Orianne Center for Indigo Conservation (OCIC) is aiming to change that by restoring the snake to its native range on the Southeast Coastal Plain. In fact, the OCIC is the only captive breeding facility for the eastern indigo snake with the sole purpose of releasing the offspring into regions where the population has been extirpated. To do that, the OCIC breeds and hatches the snakes at its facility. It also has outdoor habitats that simulate the native gopher tortoise burrows the snakes rely on, allowing them to thermoregulate, which is key to their success. The OCIC works with a variety of partners to make this happen, and together, they have released more than 200 snakes in Alabama’s Conecuh National Forest and more than 100 at The Nature Conservancy’s Apalachicola Bluffs and Ravines Preserve. We are incredibly proud of the OCIC’s work on wildlife preservation. You can learn more and even schedule a tour here.

Striped Newt Conservation Program

In addition to its important work with the eastern indigo snake, the OCIC also operates the Striped Newt Conservation Program. The striped newt is only found in northern Florida and southern Georgia, and they typically live in small, isolated wetlands. These tiny amphibians face many threats, from fire and drought to vehicle impacts and habitat loss. In fact, populations reached undetectable levels in the early 2000s in the Apalachicola National Forest, and populations are estimated to occur in only nine ponds in Georgia and 106 ponds in Florida. The OCIC has worked with a variety of agencies and organizations to restore an incredible 3,300 striped newts to their former range in the last 10 years. You can learn more here.

Conservation Days

We think every day at our Zoo in Orlando is super fun, but we really get excited about our special Conservation Days. This is just another chance for our guests to see our conservation mission in action! All year round, our zoo in central Florida celebrates animals from around the world. The best part is that while guests learn about how they can make a difference for these incredible animals, they can also enjoy fun family activities, games, crafts and keeper chats. Two upcoming conservation days to look forward to are Amur Leopard Day on August 27 and Lemur Conservation Day on November 5. For more information on Conservation Days and celebrating the animal world, click here.

Amur Leopard Habitat Expansion Project

Did you know that many of the animals you can see at the Central Florida Zoo are actually representatives of threatened or endangered species themselves? Our Amur leopards are examples of that. The Amur leopard is native to southern Russia and northern China, and these big cats are critically endangered with fewer than 70 estimated to be left in the wild. There are about 200 individuals worldwide in human care. We have two of these individuals right here in Central Florida, and we’re hoping to make a major impact on the species survival efforts through our Amur Leopard Habitat Expansion Project. With the expansion, we hope to create a bigger home for our male and female Amur leopards, Temur and Jilin, so that we can introduce them and potentially allow them to raise cubs to increase the population of this critically endangered species. A bonus? This project will also give Zoo guests a viewing area to see this species up close. We aim to raise $300,000 by Summer 2022 to complete the project. Check out our progress and donate here.

These are just a few of the ways we live out our mission of conservation every day at the Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens. If you’re wondering, “How can I help animal conservation in zoos?”, know that when you visit us, get involved, or donate, you help make these initiatives happen—and you help make a difference for animals. Ready to plan your visit? Click here to learn more, and we look forward to sharing our mission with you soon.

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