Letting The "Wild" In Wildlife In - As Published in Piedmont Post September 16th Issue

Kristin Heller, Vice President of Development
October 16, 2019

From the Desk of Kristin Heller, Director of Development, Oakland Zoo—Conservation Society of California 

I spend a significant amount of my time fussing with the environment around me to maximize my comfort and contentment. In my house I fluff pillows and rearrange family tchotchkes, maintain the perfect room temperature (a serious feat in a 100 year old bungalow in Oakland), and sweep cobwebs and spiders out of corners to return them outdoors. In my yard I fight back weeds, trim rogue shrubs and flowers, pick up fallen leaves and throw away fallen fruit to tame the landscape. My routines leave no chance to interact with or operate within the larger ecosystems around me, and this routine is beginning to create some cognitive dissonance.

This dissonance (and a good dose of Greta Thunberg’s wrath) is pushing me to examine my creature comforts more closely. How can I be an advocate for our animals and our planet if I’m not willing to make some sacrifices and let the “wild” in wildlife in?

I joined the Conservation Society of California-Oakland Zoo as the Development Director six weeks ago, jumping at the chance to represent an organization that has become known for its exceptional animal care and focus on education and conservation. Now each day I leave my perfectly curated, safe environment at home to work alongside our 750 animals who are expertly cared for in their own naturalistically-curated and safe environments. 

Many of the species at Oakland Zoo are ambassadors for their counterparts in the wild. We have conservation projects around the world that connect to many of our species here, and we try to draw attention to many of the manmade challenges those species face out there. Centuries of prioritizing human desires over the rest of the natural world has pushed our planet to the brink of its stability and has destroyed millions of acres, animals and natural resources in the process. Many of the animals at Oakland Zoo have been rescued from human-wildlife conflict, animal abuse situations, or moved into our care in order to support species conservation and repopulation efforts.Philosophically - and literally - speaking, their manmade habitats are for their own protection from the human race, while the perception is that its for our protection from them. More and more species are becoming critically endangered, and the human race is wholly responsible. 

At the Oakland Zoo, a creature of comfort like me comes face to face with the furred, feathered and scaled species who share this one Earth with us. As I meet our families of wolves, bison, elephants and more, I can come to know and love those we are fighting for. In our California Trail Habitarium I can show my niece and nephew the primary habitats of California and inspire them to make pledges to protect them. By attending our Primate DayI can take the steps to eliminate palm oil from my life to better conserve ours hared natural resources. You can, as well. Please visit Oakland Zoo and get inspired in Taking Action for Wildlife. Perhaps living on the wild side is what we should have been doing all along.