Animal conservationists from around the world are gathering in Des Moines today for an international conference on endangered species. Blank Park Zoo is the site for the annual Zoos and Aquariums Committing to Conservation Conference.
It’s typically held in larger cities. But conference organizers say they were impressed by the commitment to preserving wildlife displayed at the smaller zoo in Des Moines. Jessie Lowry, a conservation coordinator for Blank Park Zoo, points to a project where 400 pounds of gear and equipment were collected and delivered to chimpanzee researchers in Uganda.
“Maybe it’s not always about how many financial resources you have, since we’re a small zoo, maybe we don’t have as much to give in financial support as bigger zoos, but it’s about tailoring your support to the specific needs of a project, and we saw an area in Uganda where we could make a huge difference, and we did,” Lowry says.
The conservationists will hold a week-long series of presentations and panel discussions to highlight the worldwide efforts to save such endangered creatures as snow leopards and red pandas. Lowry says their messages are not only important for scientists and researchers to hear, but for the public, too.
“It’s the stories of what these field researchers are doing in Africa and Indonesia and Brazil,” Lowry said. “How do we get the stories back to people in Iowa? Why should people in Iowa and the community care about what’s happening over there? What can we do as Iowans and others across the world do to save endangered species?”
Workers and volunteers at Blank Park Zoo have been raising money to protect endangered animals since 1997. Twenty-five cents of each entry ticket and a dollar of all membership fees are contributed to such efforts.