World Wildlife Day is celebrated annually by individuals and organizations across the globe. This year’s official theme is “Life below water: for people and planet,” emphasizing our important role in protecting that substance covering over 70% of our earth—water.
Central Florida is inland of the famous beaches surrounding this state but that doesn’t mean we’re exempt from the responsibility of keeping our waterways clean. Our region sits on some of the longest rivers in Florida; the St. Johns River stretches 310 miles, the Kissimmee River spans 134 miles, and the Indian River flows along the eastern coast for 121 miles. These, and all, rivers flow into the ocean, which contains at least 200,000 identified species. It produces more than half of the oxygen in our atmosphere and over 3 billion people depend on the ocean for their livelihoods.
An estimated 8 million metric tons of plastic are funneled into the ocean each year. The impact on marine ecosystems is detrimental, destroying reefs, impacting aquatic life, and decrease a healthy amount of biodiversity. While much of the plastic remains intact, much of it breaks down into micro-plastics consumable by fish and other sea creatures and can eventually find its way into our own food and water.
According to Scientific American, only 34% of the nation regularly recycles. Along with this low participation rate, recycling companies are being faced with higher processing costs and contamination from waste. If waste is bad and recycling isn’t always effective, what are we left with?
One of the most impactful actions each person can take to prevent future detriment to our oceans is to shift from recycling to using reusable items. Simple everyday tasks we can all take include using reusable bags (keep some in your car for those spontaneous errands), use a refillable cup, as well as ditching those styrofoam take-out containers (plenty of restaurants will actually pack up your leftovers in reusable storage ware that you’ve brought from home!).
At the Zoo, we encourage guests and staff members to partake in these habits. Straws and lids are not offered at our Sonny’s concession area, reusable items are sold in the Zoofari Outpost Gift Shop, and those souvenirs are taken home in paper, not plastic, bags!
We hope you’ll join us on March 2 to learn more about how to make small changes in your daily routine to help preserve our planet and care for our environment!