Phoenix Zoo increasing focus on education, conservation

Nov 12, 2014, 6:00 AM | Updated: 6:00 am

PHOENIX — The Phoenix Zoo is working to get the word out about its conservation efforts, and it’s doing so with a new brand.

The zoo will continue to be called the Phoenix Zoo, but the name of the governing organization has been changed from the Arizona Zoological Society to the Arizona Center for Nature Conservation.

Zoo president and CEO Bert Castro said the Phoenix Zoo is far more than just a place to see animals.

“People, although they love the zoo and know the zoo is a great, fun, family-oriented recreational place to go to, they didn’t know a whole lot about the conservation work that we’re involved in,” he said.

“So the idea of this new brand is to really put conservation up front and center.”

Beside the name change, the new branding also comes with new advertising and logos.

Castro said zoos are community assets and it’s important for people to know the impact they have on protecting and preserving wildlife.

“When you look at zoos and aquariums around the country, I think they do as much or more conservation than any other organization out there,” he said.

“Last year alone, about $170 million went to conservation and research projects around the world.”

Ruth Allard, who is in charge of conservation and education for the Phoenix Zoo, said it is involved in national and international conservation projects and has had several programs that have been successful in conserving native Arizona wildlife, such as the black-footed ferret.

“We’re one of only six facilities in the world that breeds black-footed ferrets,” she said.

For decades, the black-footed ferret was thought to be extinct in the wild, but a discovery of a few wild ferrets in 1987 led to conservation efforts to help grow the population and release them back into the wild, according to Allard.

The Phoenix Zoo has had a large hand in that process, and Allard said the wild population has grown significantly.

“There are around 1,000 black-footed ferrets in the wild today,” she said.

Allard said it’s important that people are aware of the conservation efforts by zoos such as the Phoenix Zoo so they can further appreciate wildlife.

“We’re always going to need to have our conservation education role front and center, where we’re sharing with people our passion and inspiring them to care,” she said.

Allard said it’s also important for people to understand the impact they can have on nature in both positive and negative ways.

“We’re all in this together, (so) what can we do to make sure that the world is the way we want it to be moving forward,” she said.

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Phoenix Zoo increasing focus on education, conservation