Monday, June 22, 2015

News crew gets behind the scenes look at endangered species at the Little Rock Zoo

KATV - Breaking News, Weather and Razorback Sports

Jun 20, 2015

LITTLE ROCK (KATV) -  African penguins, cheetahs, and black rhinos are just three of the many endangered species across the world. All three can be seen at the Little Rock Zoo, but researchers say if we don't change our ways that may soon be the only place they could be found. That's why hundreds of zoos and aquariums are launching a new campaign this year to save the animals called SAFE, or  saving animals from extinction.

"Most people don't just wake up and say i want to save an animal today, but what people do is wake up in the morning and go i want to go and see the animals," Susan Altrui, assistant director of the Little Rock Zoo said.

Arkansans flood into the zoo, hoping to catch a glimpse of Maggi and Zazi, this mother-daughter cheetah duo, catch a peak of the penguins playing in the water, or see Johari the black rhino, baking in the sun. Little do they know, they're small visit to the zoo has a huge impact on wild life throughout the world.

"Zoos or aquariums may be the only places where you can see these animals one day and that's something we dont want to have happen," Altrui said.

"Rhinos are pretty smart and trainable, and he's very personable," Erin Lien, zookeeper, said. Johari can usually be seen in the Africa section of the zoo. The 20-year-old is one of about 5,000 living black rhinos in the world.

"He likes to paint and we use that as a part of his enrichment. So he likes to have the interaction with us and its part of his training as well," Lien said. While rhinos are being poached for their horns, the African penguin population is declining due to over-fishing and oil spills.

"So this is Kai and she is one of our African black footed penguins," Jason Emery, zookeeper, said. This exhibit is home to 21 penguins, including 6 bred in Little Rock.
"They're built for the water. They love to swim, they love to eat fish, and their body is shaped like a torpedo," Emery said. He looks after this waddling bunch, and said for every encounter like this, another penguin could be saved.

"A motto that i've always learned is touch the heart to teach the mind. People are more prone to remember something if they have a up close personal interaction," Emery said. This is all a part of an initiative launched this year called SAFE.

"This is really an exciting time in our worlds history to really have a combined effort to save animals," Altrui said. She continued to say around 180 million people visit zoos with this program. Every ticket purchased helps fund conservation efforts in the wild.

Altrui said she hopes by educating the public and raising awareness through safe, we can keep our penguins and rhinos around for a little longer.

"If we can reach all of those people and teach them about how endangered these animals are in the wild and activate them to do something to do about it, that's pretty powerful," Altrui said.


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