Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Penguins--A Draw for the Cincinnati Zoo

Bob Ratterman/Bob Ratterman
Thane Maynard, director of the Cincinnati Zoo, was the speaker for the annual meeting of the Three Valley Conservation Trust on Saturday, Feb. 7 and he brought along an alligator, a Spectacled Owl and an African Blackfoot Penguin, who all made the rounds of the room for an up-close visit.

Zoo visitors popular at trust's annual meeting

By Bob Ratterman
Staff Writer

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Several special guests showed up for the annual meeting of the Three Valley Conservation Trust on Saturday, Feb. 7, but they were not fed at the Marcum Center banquet.

It was not an oversight on the part of the hosts. The guests had eaten earlier at home – the Cincinnati Zoo.

Speaker for the evening was Thane Maynard, director of the zoo, who brought several animals with him, an alligator, a Spectacled Owl and an African Blackfooted Penguin.

Maynard talked about each of the animals and let them tour the room so everyone could see them up close and, in the case of the alligator, touch it.

The alligator, he said, is making a strong comeback from being on the endangered list. He said that their numbers were well down in the late 1800s because soldiers back from the Civil War hunted them to sell for skins desired by Europeans.

Maynard said he grew up in Florida and caught "a zillion" alligators.

The owl he brought to the program has been to many schools for programs and flies in the zoo's program during the summer.

The penguin was possibly the most popular of the three. It is one of a class of penguins called "jackass penguins" because of their bray which sounds like a donkey. That sound was demonstrated for the audience, when the bird was taken out of its cage. The braying did not indicate a serious concern, however.

"If he was upset, he would be biting the heck out of me and flapping like crazy," Maynard said.

Maynard took him around the room, letting him walk on the floor for a short time, giving a few people a chance to see it walk.

Maynard conducted a trivia game with guests at the Three Valley Conservation Trust meeting asking them to identify endangered animals from his descriptions and praised the work of the trust in supporting conservation easements to preserve land.

"What you do is important for in Southwestern Ohio," Maynard said.

Members heard several stories of that work from those who have placed their land into easements.

Jim Leedy, of Preble County, said he placed 650 acres in trust in order to preserve his farm recognized as a Century Farm. He and his wife, Amy, who elected to the trust's board of trustees at the meeting, have been in agriculture all of their lives.

He admitted he had not been sold on the land trust at the beginning but heard a talk by executive director Larry Frimerman and took the idea back to his mother, who was all for it. He said his farm sits inside a triangle between three communities and wanted to maintain the rural character of his farm.

"I had three small communities coming at me," Leedy said. "I thought this was something I should look into. It seemed like it was tailor-made for me. My kids know my wishes and won't develop the land, but I don't know what my grandchildren and their children will do. This is a chance for me to manage from the grave."

He closed to applause when he said, "If they do not want to farm, it can go back to the Indians for all I care. I do not want it to start growing houses."

Donna McCollum and Hayes Cummins presented photos of their easement property in Reily Twp. McCollum described their 16-acre property as "odd-shaped" and said they wanted to preserve the wetlands and create prairie areas. They created water barriers to prevent erosion and began planting prairie grasses as well as allowing wild plants to grow.

"Even weeds can be pretty," she said.

Frimerman gave his annual director's report saying that 2007 had found the trust getting a lot of land into easements, but found a financial shortfall. Last year, therefore, was spent with a focus on business. He said there are several easements in the pipeline from 2008 and will see them completed in 2009.

"With the economic downturn, ... we must be very deliberate about how we go about it," he said. "We will be growing memberships. We need more of us."

Contact this reporter at (513) 523-4139 or bratterman@coxohio.com.

Story and pic courtesy of The Oxford Press @


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