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Wild change in a small city

“Like overfishing in the ocean, there’s good ways to fish and there’s bad ways. We just have to find a sustainable way to do it,” said Richard Kotarsky, the Tulsa Zoo Curator of Conservation.

The Tulsa Zoo supports projects that address topics integral to the saving of wild animals and the places they live. Through partnerships and alliances with other organizations that are part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the Tulsa Zoo is actively involved in supporting the conservation of local and global biological diversity.

Photo by Josh Crow

The Tulsa Zoo has participated in and supported over 360 projects dedicated to wildlife conservation since 1997.

On their website, the World Wildlife Fund stated, “The rapid loss of species we are seeing today is estimated by experts to be between 1,000 and 10,000 times higher than the natural extinction rate.”

According to Kotarsky, one of the zoo’s active projects can be seen on Oral Roberts University’s campus. Kotarsky took part in creating a group known as the Monarch Initiative of Tulsa. This group helped start stations across the city called Monarch Waystations, including the one on ORU’s campus.

A Monarch Waystation is a garden that provides food and a habitat for the struggling population of the Monarch Butterfly. The garden must include at least two species of Milkweed to be considered a waystation, as milkweed is a “host” plant for the butterflies.

The Monarch Initiative of Tulsa is not the only program in which the Tulsa Zoo is actively involved. A few other conservation programs supported by the Tulsa Zoo include Vaquita Conservation, Snow Leopard Trust, Malaysian Tiger Conservation, International Rhino Foundation and many more.

While the Tulsa Zoo is actively involved in many programs, the organization relies heavily on zoo visitors. Whether it be through admission to the zoo or environmentally friendly actions of the community, the Tulsa Zoo relies on the support of the public to bring change. Even the proceeds from some zoo gift shop items go directly to the Snow Leopard Trust, which according to their website, works “to better understand the endangered snow leopard, and to protect the cat in partnership with the communities that share its habitat.”

Photo by Josh Crow

“A certain percentage of every person that walks through the door, their admission goes toward saving species’ in the wild,” Kotarsky said.

The zoo also relies on the component of education to bring change. From educating the importance of recycling to teaching that all species have a role in the evironment, the zoo communicates the need for everyone to have a part in the action.

“We’re only as good as our partners and our guests who support the zoo. That’s how we can support other organizations,” Kotarsky said.

More information on how to get involved in supporting conservational efforts can be found on the Tulsa Zoo’s website.