Zoo Camp Builds Young Conservationists - As Published in Piedmont Post October 2nd Issue

Caterina Meyers
September 27, 2019

From the Desk of Caterina Meyers, Ph.D, Director of Education,Oakland Zoo / Conservation Society of California

Are you inspired by today’s youth and their leadership in climate resilience and care of the earth?Greta Thunberg from Sweden, Artemisa Xakriaba from Brazil, Autumn Peltier from Canada: these young people are passionate, articulate and fearless when it comes to speaking up for the earth and the health of its ecosystems. I am moved and motivated every day by the collective voices of people of all ages who care deeply about the future of this planet. Reflecting on this summer’s busy season at Oakland Zoo, I am filled with tremendous optimism. Our Education team hosted more than 88,000 visitors in our Conservation Habitarium, a recently unveiled interpretive space at the beautiful California Trail that encourages every visitor to Take Action for Wildlife. Dedicated volunteers, including Docents and Teen Wild Guides, invested 13,635 hours of their time to help Zoo guests connect with animals and appreciate nature. Participants in creek restoration days, overnight experiences, animal close-up encounters and feeding talks got excited about protecting animal welfare and saving critical habitats for the most vulnerable species. During our ten weeks of ZooCamp, 1,692 young conservationists experienced the life of a zookeeper, helped to create enrichment for our animals, and made life-long friends and memories. These campers embodied the joy and passion of the young activists featured in the news recently. Together, they learned about what each of us can do to help animals in the wild have a better chance of surviving and thriving. The conservation focus for our summer ZooCamp this year was on the majesticCalifornia Condor, in support of our conservation partner, The Ventana WildlifeSociety. Campers visited this iconic “come back kid” in their expansive new habitat at California Trail. Being in the presence of the largest of the NorthAmerican vultures is awe-inspiring, to say the least. “Look! She looks like she’s wearing a feather boa!” campers shrieked with delight. Their orange featherless heads give them an air of timeless wisdom. They survey the humans walking along the boardwalk with a regal demeanor. In 1986, there were only three of their species of this left in the wild. Hunting, poisoning with bait intended for coyotes, DDT contamination, egg collecting, food scarcity, and habitat destruction had taken its lethal toll. At that time, there were plenty of reasons to assume this species would be lost forever. A massive inter-disciplinary collaboration between government agencies, biologists, conservation groups and concerned citizens ultimately led to a successful captive breeding program. Currently, almost 500 California Condors are soaring in the skies of central California. It is nothing short of a miracle and certainly a tale of hope. For our campers, learning about this effort and Oakland Zoo’s ongoing program, treating and rehabilitating lead-poisoned condors so they can return to the wild has been an inspiration that dedication to helping animals can and does make a difference. Our zoo campers raised $4,258 for the Ventana Wildlife Society and each became enthusiastic advocates for this and every species! Let us follow their lead and continue the vital work of Taking Action for Wildlife.