News Column

Many conservation projects under way

July 26, 2014

By Kathi Keys, The Courier-Tribune, Asheboro, N.C.



July 26--ASHEBORO -- The N.C. Zoo is involved in the conservation of wildlife and natural resources around the world.

The zoo and others throughout the United States have expanded their roles beyond just exhibiting various animal species to helping to protect and conserve wildlife.

These efforts range from elephant collaring in Cameroon to partnerships preserving wild lands in the Piedmont.

The zoo is helping to save species and is involved in habitat conservation, green practices, conservation education and animal welfare and research.

Zoo staff members with the expertise in these various areas are helping to make these initiatives possible in partnership with other agencies. Two of these are:

-- Dr. Rich Bergl serves as curator of conservation and research and has been working for many years in studying the Cross River gorilla, the world's most endangered gorilla. Only about 300 are thought to remain of the gorilla subspecies which was rediscovered by scientists in Cameroon and Nigeria in the late 1980s.

-- Dr. Mike Loomis, chief zoo veterinarian, has been following African elephants in Cameroon for more than 16 years and expanded his collaring efforts to Nigeria. The tracking helps predict elephant movements and prevent human-elephant conflict.

A number of regional initiatives are under way to protect plants and wildlife in the central Piedmont, preserve the state's resources and minimize negative impacts throughout the southeastern United States. Among these are:

-- Schweinitz's sunflower. The sunflower once was common in the Southeast; however, much of the habitat has been lost to agriculture and forests and it's now found in 12 counties in North Carolina and two in South Carolina. The zoo works closely with the N.C. Department of Transportation to prevent future destruction.

-- Smooth purple coneflower. The zoo's horticulture section has been successfully growing this federally endangered species and ensuring it does not hybridize with a similar species, the common purple coneflower.

-- Longleaf pine. A 116-acre tract in Randolph County, purchased by the zoo with support from others, is one of the last remaining Piedmont longleaf pine forests; the zoo is working with University of North Carolina at Greensboro to learn more about this old forest.

And the zoo is going greener, too, with different projects on site under the leadership of Mary Joan Pugh, deputy director and chief financial officer.

The zoo is a leader in environmental stewardship and was honored as a North Carolina Environmental Steward in April, becoming the first state agency to be honored for its conservation programs. Examples of its wetlands and solar projects can be found adjacent to the North America parking lot.

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(c)2014 The Courier-Tribune, Asheboro, N.C.

Visit The Courier-Tribune, Asheboro, N.C. at www.courier-tribune.com

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Source: Courier-Tribune (Asheboro, NC)


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