As an accredited zoo, we must "walk the walk" and support critically endangered animals. These efforts happen both in our Zoo, as we cooperatively work with zoos around the world on the Species Survival Plan, and internationally as we support those across the world who are advocates for change in these species' natural habitats. As part of this mission, Friends of the Zoo, on behalf of the Baton Rouge Zoo, has donated thousands to various conservation projects. Here are some of the impactful conservation projects we are currently supporting.
Only about 10,000 of cheetahs remain in the wild today--an alarming but very real statistic. Native to Africa, a significant threat to wild cheetahs are local ranchers who may kill them in an effort to protect their livestock. As part of our wildlife conservation efforts, Friends of the Baton Rouge Zoo contributes to programs in which trained dogs are given to local ranchers. The dogs serve as a natural deterrent for the cheetahs and have been shown to decrease the number of predators by up to 80%. With the threat to ranchers removed, cheetahs have a higher chance of survival in the wild.
Globally the Baird's Tapir is identified as Endangered, which in large part is due to deforestation in South and Central America. Today, Friends of the Baton Rouge Zoo contributes to international programs that strive to conserve the diversity of Tapirs by stimulating, developing and executing practical conservation projects to study, save, restore and manage the four species of Tapir and their remaining habitats in the wild. The Baton Rouge Zoo is proud to have a successfully breeding pair of Baird's Tapirs, who welcomed their first offspring in Spring 2013.
The four species of Lion Tamarins--the Golden Lion, the Golden-Headed Lion, the Black Lion and the Black Faced Lion--are endemic to the Atlantic Forest in eastern and southeastern Brazil. Deforestation, hunting and commerce have caused the Tamarin populations to drastically decline over the last half century, leaving them globally identifying them as Endangered. Today, the Zoo contributes to national and international efforts, including captive breeding, that assist in raising funds for field research and the conservation of Lion Tamarins.
The tiger is not only the world's largest cat, but also one of the most threatened with extinction. As recently as 100 years ago, there were as many as 100,000 wild tigers living in Asia. Shockingly, fewer than 3,200 tigers remain in the wild today. These large cats are officially listed as Endangered, mainly due to human-tiger conflict. Between increasingly threatened habitats and being hunted to meet the demands of the illegal wildlife trade market, these animals are closer to disappearing every day. In effort to aid this continuing problem, Friends of the Baton Rouge Zoo contributes to projects dedicated to mitigating human-tiger conflict, protecting tiger habitats, researching tiger ecology and monitoring tiger populations. These programs have make the unique commitment to increase tiger numbers by at least 50% at key sites over a 10-year period by mitigating the most critical threats to tigers and improving the effectiveness of conservation actions.
Amphibians were the first vertebrates to populate the land environment and have biological and ecological characteristics that make them extremely sensitive to changes in their environment. Today, it is believed that nearly 30% of the 6,000+ known amphibian species are threatened with extinction, primarily in Panama, and are disappearing due to a fungus that causes a disease known as chytridiomycosis. In help, Friends of the Baton Rouge Zoo contributes to conservation programs that aim to rescue and establish assurance colonies of amphibian species that are in extreme danger of extinction. Once the groups are identified, they are then brought to a facility to study and care for them and provide a safe and comfortable breeding environment.
African and Asian elephants are one of the world's most beautiful animals that continue to be at risk in the wild today. Threats to these animals are primarily caused by human activities that use natural resources without sustainable management that deplete natural habitats for the elephants and their freedom to roam. In addition to loss of habitat, poaching is still a significant problem in countries where wildlife management authorities are majorly under-funded. Unmonitored domestic ivory markets continue to thrive and fuel the illegal international trade market, making the ivory tusks of these elephants very valuable. In efforts to stop these issues, Friends of the Baton Rouge Zoo contributes to organizations that support conservation, education and research of the world's elephants with a commitment to affect positive change in the elephant population. These programs facilitate elephant conservation and sound scientific investigation resulting in the protection of elephants for future generations.
It's estimated that in 1900, more than one million rhinos roamed the earth. Today, some species of rhino have fewer than 45 individuals still alive today. Poaching is the primary threat facing these majestic animals, and is largely fueled by the false belief that rhino horns have some sort of medical value for humans. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, it is thought to cure everything from fevers and gout to terminal conditions like cancer. The demand for rhino horn has skyrocketed so much on the black market that the average price for just one kilogram (about two pounds) of rhino horn is an estimated $100,000, making it a very attractive source of income for local cartels. Other threats to the rhino include habitat loss for agricultural production and political conflict and unrest, which limits the work that anti-poaching patrols can do in those areas. Friends of the Baton Rouge Zoo partner with organizations to fight to keep rhino species alive through use of surveillance, patrol guards, political lobbying emergency veterinary care and rhino conservancies in cooperation with local governments.
Accredited zoos and aquariums throughout the U.S. and the world have made a commitment to cooperative conservation-related scientific and educational initiatives. Since 1991, more than $5.7 million has been contributed and put to work in the fields of animal health, animal welfare, conservation education, field conservation and/or reintroduction, management and/or breeding, and research. Recipients of these grants include accredited zoos and aquariums; state, federal and international wildlife agencies; academia; and major conservation NGOs.