The United States Senate declared Friday, May 21st as Endangered Species Day to encourage people to become aware of threats to animal and plant species and to learn what they can do to help. It is estimated that the current extinction rate for species on our planet is more than 1,000 times the rate it would be naturally, as a result of human activities. There is cause to be concerned, from the loss of arctic ice to disasters like the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Still, San Diego Zoo scientists are optimistic that there is still time to make a difference.
“At the San Diego Zoo, we celebrate national Endangered Species Day because these and countless other magnificent creatures are not yet gone,” said Allison Alberts, Ph.D., San Diego Zoo chief conservation officer. “They are still our fellow travelers on this planet, and there is still time to save them as long as we have the will to do it.”
The San Diego Zoo sees new reasons for hope every day. Following are the Zoo’s ten best reasons.
1. This year, the 300th puaiohi hatched at Zoo’s Keauhou Bird Conservation Center in Hawaii. And the 200th of these tiny forest thrushes will be released into its native habitat, rebounding this species from the brink of extinction.
2. Zoo scientists rediscovered gorilla and chimpanzee populations in Cameroon. Replete with wildlife, this forest haven is home to eleven species of primates, including gorilla and chimpanzee populations once thought to be extinct.
3. The first dedicated screening lab for chytrid fungus, a devastating disease that threatens amphibians around the world, was established by the Zoo. The lab will assist in the creation of healthy colonies for the most critically endangered amphibians.
4. The Chinese government banned logging in giant panda habitat and added 50 new reserves to protect wild pandas. The Zoo welcomed its fifth cub, little Yun Zi, contributing to a global baby boom that will reach 300 pandas worldwide this year.
5. San Diego County’s unique flora, one of the most endangered in the continental United States, is being conserved for the future. The Zoo achieved a milestone this year, safeguarding seeds from 500, or a third, of our 1,500 native plant species.
6. In collaboration with Elephants Without Borders, the Zoo documented African elephants moving across the war-torn landscape, instinctively avoiding land mines to find their way home from Botswana to repopulate Angola for the first time in years.
7. The national movement to reconnect kids to nature continued to grow. The Zoo welcomed the 10,000th student visitor to the hands-on Conservation Education Lab, and made the decision to theme October as Children and Nature Month.
8. An ambitious effort to sequence the genomes of 10,000 vertebrate species was launched. Utilizing the resources of the Zoo’s unique Frozen Zoo
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