Habitat for Wildlife Weekend: Beneficial Information About Our Environment

The following content is included in the brochure being handed out at the Zoo this weekend to help educate and promote habitat protection as part of the Zoo's 4th Annual Habitat for Wildlife Weekend.

THE CHIHUAHUAN DESERT

There are SEVENTEEN DESERT habitats across our big blue planet. The United States has four: The Great Basin, Mojave, Sonoran and Chihuahuan. The Chihuahuan Desert is the largest in North America at 394,446 square miles or 1.5% of the continent. This is our desert and it is hot! If you live in El Paso or Las Cruces, West Texas, northern Mexico, southeastern Arizona or southern New Mexico then you live in the Chihuahuan Desert! Some plants that live in our desert include creosote bush, lechuguilla, Mexican gold poppy and various cacti. Animals include mule deer, mountain lion, coyote, diamondback rattlesnake, javelina, kangaroo rat and roadrunner. To learn more about Chihuahuan Desert animals that live at the Zoo see the animal checklist we have posted on our website at www.elpasozoo.org.

What are we doing to help protect Chihuahuan Desert habitat at the El Paso Zoo?
We are participating in a US Fish and Wildlife project to reintroduce critically endangered Mexican wolves and black-footed ferrets. Our Education Staff is helping an effort to organize the Chihuahuan Desert Education Coalition (see our website to learn more). Our Animal Collections Staff is involved in efforts to help establish Keystone Heritage Park and monitoring migrating raptors in the Franklin Mountains. The Quality of Life bond approved by voters in 2000 is allowing us to build a new Chihuahuan Desert related exhibit called the El Nido Ranch. It is scheduled to open to the public in 2007.

What can you do to get involved?
Support conservation organizations working to help restore Mexican wolves and black footed ferrets. Get involved in the Chihuahuan Desert Education Coalition. Become a member of the El Paso Zoological Society. Become informed about desert issues. Support your local desert habitat through knowledge and conservation. Reconnect with nature by visiting Chihuahuan Desert protected areas in El Paso and the surrounding region. Contact the Zoo to learn more about educational animal and Chihuahuan Desert presentations at local schools and civic group meetings.

SUMATRAN RAINFOREST

Temperate and tropical forests in Sumatra- ARE ENDANGERED. Critically endangered orangutans live in the treetops of northern Sumatra. Less than 4000 Sumatran orangutans survive and unless habitat protection efforts are increased, they could become extinct in our lifetime. Only about 80 wild endangered Asian elephants survive in the newly established Tesso Nilo National Park. Other rare animals of Sumatra with their fate in doubt include critically endangered Sumatran tigers and rhinos. The Sumatran rhino resembles the hairy rhino that went extinct during the last Ice Age. Less than 300 animals remain.

What are we doing to help Sumatran forests at the El Paso Zoo?
We sponsor the annual Elephant Festival to increase awareness of the plight of elephants in Sumatra. We offer special guided tours of our Asia section of the Zoo where we have animals from Sumatra including the Malayan tapir, slow loris and sun bear. We are helping to maintain captive populations of rare animals from Sumatra by participating in the American Zoo and Aquarium Associations Species Survival Plans (SSP) for orangutans, tapirs, siamangs and sun bears. We support protected area conservation efforts in the newly created Tesso Nilo National Park.

What can you do to get involved?
Support organizations like the El Paso Zoological Society to help save habitat in Sumatra. Recycle cell phones and PDA's at the Zoo. Money collected from these recycled materials is donated in support of World Wildlife Fund conservation efforts in Sumatra. You can also make a contribution to the El Paso Zoological Society's Conservation fund. Become an informed consumer by avoiding foods with palm oil (see article on page 4). Learn more by visiting our 'Take Action' pages at www.elpasozoo.org.

AFRICA SAVANNAHS and RAINFORESTS

Savannahs are semi-dry landscapes of broad grasslands with sparse scattered trees and shrubs. Rainforests have higher rainfall and are very diverse in plant and animals species. Out of the entire world's savannah, only 8.5% is protected! Protected areas are parks and reserves, such as the Kruger National Park, Kalahari Gemsbok National Park, the Umfolozi-Hluhluwe and many other reserves. Many protected rainforests in Africa are protected in name only because of unstable governments and civil wars. Endangered animals of the African rainforest include the mountain gorilla, bonobo, chimpanzee, forest elephant and okapi.

What are we doing to help protect African habitats at the El Paso Zoo?
The Quality of Life bond approved by voters in 2000 is allowing us to build a new African expansion project called "Passport to Africa". This project will include a new Discovery Education Center in cooperation with the El Paso Water Utilities, a simulated field research center featuring a meerkat colony and many savannah animals including African lion, African wild dogs, giraffe, zebra, and several species of antelope. The project will open in phases and be completed in 2009. We are partnering with other zoos in supporting conservation and education efforts in the Central African country of Rwanda by encouraging young people who visit the Zoo to make flashcards designed to help young Rwandans learn English. In cooperation with the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund and Rwanda Office of Tourism, we are assisting is writing a guidebook for Virunga Volcano National Park. The Zoo is collecting books about animals to donate to schools in vicinity of North Luwanga National Park in Zambia.

What can you do to get involved?
Drop off animal books at the zoo for distribution to schools in Zambia. Financial contributions can be made to the El Paso Zoological Society to help with shipping costs. Contact the Zoo and learn more about our Volunteer Program. Contact organizations like the African Wildlife Foundation and the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund and support their wildlife conservation projects in Africa.

OCEAN HABITATS
Oceans cover almost 3/4 of the Earth. There are four oceans: the Pacific, Atlantic, Indian, and Arctic. Phytoplankton that live in oceans produce over 90% of the oxygen we need to breathe. Many people eat fish from oceans and over harvesting activities are contributing to the extinction of many ocean animals.

What are we doing to help protect our oceans at the El Paso Zoo?
In addition to the California sea lions in our sea lion exhibit, we are setting up display tanks containing ocean species from Baja California and the Sea of Cortez. Twice daily, we offer education programs on California sea lions and ocean conservation. The Zoo has produced a DVD on sea lions available free for school teachers and libraries and a Passport to the El Paso Zoo booklet that helps children better understand California sea lions and other animals at the Zoo. This booklet can be found on our website in the Kids Zone. We are distributing 'Seafood Watch cards' that help people become informed consumers when they buy fish. The card identifies fish that come from abundant supplies compared to those that are becoming rare from over fishing.

What can you do to get involved?
Become informed about ocean issues. Learn more by visiting our 'Take Action' pages at www.elpasozoo.org. Follow fish-buying guidelines available on our website on the Take Action ocean conservation pages and from the Seafood Watch card.

PALM OIL

Palm oil, one of the worlds leading agricultural commodities, is widely used as a food ingredient and cooking oil. Unfortunately, not only does palm oil promote heart disease, but also the vast plantations that grow oil palm trees have contributed to the destruction of the rainforest and wildlife of Southeast Asia. Those side effects are not broadly recognized - and avoided - by governments, food manufacturers, or consumers.

A new U.S. government regulation requires that, by January 1, 2006, food labels list a product's content of trans fat, which comes from partially hydrogenated vegetable oil and is a major cause of heart disease. Many food processors are seeking to eliminate trans fat by switching to other oils. Palm oil is one such alternative. Conservationists are educating others about palm oil's chief environmental and health impacts and encouraging food processors, consumers, and government and international agencies to support the use of oils that are better for both human and environmental health.

Palm oil and human health

Palm oil is used around the world in such foods as margarine, shortening, baked goods, and candies. Biomedical research indicates that palm oil, which is high in saturated fat and low in polyunsaturated fat, may promote heart disease. Though less harmful than partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, it is far more conducive to heart disease than such heart-protective liquid oils as olive, soy, and canola. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, World Health Organization, and other health authorities have urged reduced consumption of oils like palm oil.