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Category — Lions in Kenya

Lessons from the Passenger Pigeon for a Sustainable Future

Guest blogger: Sophie Williams, Advanced Inquiry Program (AIP) student and consultant on the Passenger Pigeon Memorial renovation

In the past few months, we’ve learned about the story of the passenger pigeon and species conservation at the Cincinnati Zoo, as well as how you can help birds in your own backyards. There is still work to be done to continue protecting species around the world. From genetic research at the Zoo’s Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW) to Go Green initiatives you can participate in both at the Zoo and at home, the Cincinnati Zoo is committed to saving endangered plants and animals from extinction in North America and around the world. Here are just a few ways you can contribute!

Be a Sustainable Shopper!

Many animals and plants are threatened by habitat loss. As consumers, we all have the power to protect wildlife by using the Sustainable Shopper app to choose products made with Certified Sustainable Palm Oil. Palm oil is used in many of the foods and products we consume every day from frozen vegetables to shampoo. Oil palm plantations are spreading across Indonesia, which produces 85% of the world’s supply of palm oil, often to the detriment of its rainforests and wildlife.

As consumers, we can choose to buy products made with sustainable palm oil as certified by the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil. The Sustainable Shopper app connects you with more than 500 products manufactured by RSPO-certified companies.

To get the app: From your web-enabled phone, scan this QR code with your preferred QR code reader, or go to cincinnatizoo.org/sustainable-shopper.


Look into the tiger's eyes.

Recycle your cell phone, and save a gorilla!

As we continue to advance our phone technology, cell phone users rapidly replace their old models with newer ones. But, what do you do with your old phone? Recycle it at the Zoo!

By recycling your cell phone you are preventing the large number of hazardous substances from entering our environment. Metals such as antimony, arsenic, beryllium, cadmium, copper, and lead, which can linger in the environment for a long time and have adverse effects on human health, can be recycled or disposed of properly.

In addition, by recycling coltan, a mineral mined in gorilla habitat, you are helping gorillas maintain a future in the wild. Drop your old cell phone into one of the collection bins around the Zoo!

Lowland Gorilla D0039Jomo

Buy a bracelet to support lions and livelihoods in Kenya.

Our Lions and Livelihoods bracelets were made by Maasai women from the Olkiramatian Women’s Group in Kenya’s South Rift Valley. Revenue from the sale of these bracelets helps the Women’s Group provide tuition for local school girls and contributes to the operation of the Lale’enok Resource Center, a community center that helps support both wildlife conservation and thriving Maasai livelihoods. Bracelets are sold at the Africa exhibit at the Zoo on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday afternoons. This partnership is supported by the Cincinnati Zoo’s Saving Species Campaign. Wear a bracelet and proudly support this global initiative.

Lion 2391 B

Go Green!

Get involved with habitat protection and species conservation through sustainable actions! The Cincinnati Zoo supports a number of sustainability initiatives on site, from generating power through the largest publicly accessible urban solar array in the United States to a green roof to prevent storm-water runoff and filter out air pollutants.

You can practice sustainability at home, following the lead of the Zoo’s Go Green initiatives. Take a close look at the choices you make in life and identify the opportunities you have to select greener options. Start with a couple of quick and simple changes, such as switching your light bulbs to energy efficient ones or bringing reusable shopping bags to the grocery store. Once you’re comfortable with these small changes, pick out a few more to pursue, and you’ll be well on your way towards a greener lifestyle. Every small action you take can make a big difference in creating a more sustainable future for us all!

solar panels GGG

To read the other posts in this series, click hereJoin us in July for updates on the renovated exhibit space and events surrounding the centenary of the passenger pigeon’s extinction.

June 19, 2014   1 Comment

From the Passenger Pigeon to Conservation at the Cincinnati Zoo

Guest blogger: Sophie Williams, Advanced Inquiry Program (AIP) student and consultant on the Passenger Pigeon Memorial renovation

The reason we study the story of the passenger pigeon is not to be sad about its loss, but to be aware. Humans have a great capacity to do good, but we also have the ability to exhaust seemingly endless riches. It is important to recognize the impact we as humans can have on our environment, and take steps to conserve natural resources, both species and habitats, while we can.

The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden is at the cutting-edge of conservation research and action. From genetic research conducted at the Zoo’s Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW) to the Zoo’s Go Green initiatives you can participate in both at the Zoo and at home, the Cincinnati Zoo is committed to saving endangered plants and animals from extinction in North America and around the world.  Here are just a few examples.

Sumatran Rhino Conservation

The Sumatran rhinoceros is one of the most endangered animals on the planet, with only about 100 individuals left. CREW’s Signature Sumatran Rhino Project has been a leader in captive breeding efforts for this critically endangered animal since 1997. In 2001, the first Sumatran rhino calf to be born in captivity in 112 years was born at the Cincinnati Zoo, thanks to CREW’s breakthrough research. Since then, two other calves have been born at the Zoo, and in 2007, the Zoo’s first-born rhino calf, Andalas, was relocated to the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary (SRS) on the island of Sumatra to serve as the catalyst for a breeding program in the species’ native land. A few years later, Andalas’s mate, Ratu, gave birth to a healthy male calf, a huge success for the species!

In addition to its leadership role in the Sumatran rhino captive breeding program, CREW scientists partner with conservation organization Rhino Global Partnerships to protect Sumatran rhinos in the wild by helping to support Rhino Protection Units. These units are trained to protect the rhinos from poachers, the greatest threat to the species. Furthermore, financial support and CREW staff expertise are provided to facilitate the captive breeding program on Sumatra. CREW’s Signature Sumatran Rhino Project, with its international collaboration, is conservation work at its finest.

Sumatran rhino with baby (Photo: Dave Jenike)

Sumatran rhino with baby (Photo: Dave Jenike)

Gorilla Conservation

Western lowland gorillas are critically endangered in the wild, with less than 175,000 individuals. Due primarily to habitat destruction caused by logging, mineral mining, and agricultural expansion, wild gorilla numbers continue to shrink. The bushmeat trade—the killing of wild animals to be used as human food—is also a major threat to the western lowland gorilla population throughout the Central African rainforests. Over 1,000 gorillas are illegally poached for the bushmeat trade each year.

The Cincinnati Zoo supports wild gorilla conservation efforts such as the Mbeli Bai Study. The Mbeli Bai Study is the longest running research being done with wild western lowland gorillas. Through research, local education programs, publications, and documentaries, the Mbeli Bai Study is raising international awareness for gorillas and their struggle for survival.

Gorillas in Congo (Photo: Thomas Breuer)

Gorillas in Congo (Photo: Thomas Breuer)

African Lion Conservation

Another way the Zoo contributes to species conservation worldwide is through support of global initiatives to protect wildlife and minimize human-wildlife conflict. The Zoo provides funding to support Rebuilding the Pride, a community-based conservation program that combines tradition and modern technology to restore a healthy lion population while reducing the loss of livestock to lions in Kenya’s South Rift Valley.

Local Maasai research assistants track the movement of both livestock and lions in an effort to understand seasonal movements and identify conflict hotspots. Some of the lions have been fitted with Global Positioning System (GPS) collars for better tracking. The collars transmit four locations a day to a central server, giving detailed information on the exact movement of the lions. Knowing where the prides are lets herders know where to avoid grazing their livestock.

The program also deploys a Conflict Response Team to mitigate any conflicts that arise between people and lions. When herders must move through areas with lions, they call on community game scouts to accompany them for extra protection. The team also helps find and rescue lost livestock that would have otherwise fallen victim to predation.

Thanks to these efforts, lion populations in the region are growing. Once down to a low of about 10 known lions in the area, the population is now estimated to be nearly 70. The prides have been producing cubs and new lions are moving in from surrounding areas. The Rebuilding the Pride program has greatly contributed to the robustness of the lion population, minimized human-wildlife conflict, and become a strong community-based conservation program.

Lions in Kenya (Photo: Lily Maynard)

Lions in Kenya (Photo: Lily Maynard)

To read the other posts in this series, click here. Join us in April as we celebrate Earth Day and community activism!

March 17, 2014   4 Comments

TRIBE teens visit Kenya!

As many of you know, the Zoo TRIBE is one of the Zoo’s volunteen programs that offers area teens the chance to gain leadership skills while helping in our Spaulding Children’s Zoo. TRIBE teens also help us inspire our Zoo guests at key exhibits, including the new Africa exhibit.  In June, to better equip the TRIBE teens to tell the story of lion conservation, Rachel Messerschmitt, Lily Maynard, and I accompanied 4 TRIBE teens to Kenya to give them first hand experiences with the native Maasai tribe, community-based conservation, and – of course – lions. We asked one of these TRIBE teens, Tyler Adkins, to write about his experiences on the Kenya expedition. I’m proud to post that story here. For more information about the Zoo’s support of lion conservation in Kenya’s South Rift Valley, visit Rebuilding the Pride, and the Zoo’s saving species website.


The TRIBE trip to Kenya this summer was the best experience of my life! The four lucky teens that were selected to take this once-in-a-lifetime journey were Lindsey Krusling, Faith Hall, Abby Nienaber, and me, Tyler Adkins. We were chaperoned by our supervisors Rachel Messerschmitt and Cory Christopher, as well as Lily Maynard. We spent 10 amazing days in the South Rift of Kenya where we had the opportunity to see wildlife up close and meet an incredible and inspiring group of people, the Maasai people.

While in the South Rift of Kenya, we saw many beautiful animals in their natural habitat surrounded by breathtaking scenery. We saw everything from dung beetles to baboons. Every animal was amazing in its own way, but for me the adorable and playful lion cubs were definitely my favorite thing to see. I thought that the beautiful views and close encounters with animals such as lions and giraffes would be my favorite part of this trip. And while I certainly did love seeing all of these animals in their natural habitat surrounded by the most amazing scenery a person could ever dream of, this was not by favorite part of our journey.


Top Row: Our driver Tony, Faith, Tyler, Abby, Cory. Bottom Row: Lindsey, Rachel, Lily. They customized the Land Cruiser just for us!

The best part of our entire expedition, by far, was getting to meet and hang out with the Maasai people. The Maasai are a group of pastoralists, or herders, who live in the South Rift of Kenya. To put things in perspective, the Maasai’s cattle is their income, their source of food, and an emotional attachment, like a pet. So, a Maasai person’s cow means everything to them. These pastoralists have chosen to live with their cattle alongside the lions! They have adapted in such a way that they have managed to avoid very little conflict with the lions. With the help of the Rebuilding the Pride project, headed by Guy Western and Lily Maynard, they have been able to track lion movement using GPS collars and radio transmitters to better avoid conflict. Through this community-based conservation program, the lion population has made a triumphant comeback and will continue to grow due to this sustainable program!


TRIBE teens with many of the members of the Olkiramatian Women’s Group, the group that owns and takes care of the Lale Enok Resource Center, which is the base for Rebuilding the Pride, and our home for 2 weeks!

The Maasai people are not just incredible and inspiring because they are able to live with lions; they are also the most joyful people I have ever met. Here in America, we are able to enjoy the luxuries of a first-world country, however in the south rift of Kenya, they do not have these luxuries. I saw firsthand the small huts made from sticks and mud that they live in. A man told me how when he went to herd his cows everyday he would get a cup of milk in the morning before leaving and a cup of milk when he returned home at night, and that was all he would eat for the day. The Maasai people live in these conditions their whole lives, but that does not seem to affect their outlook on life. They were all so cheerful and welcoming. Whether we were beading bracelets with them or dancing around the fire, we all had huge smile on our faces. Everybody is so incredibly joyous and inspiring that it made me happy to just be around them. This journey was definitely a life-changing opportunity, and getting to spend it with the Maasai people is what truly made this trip the best experience of my life! ~ Tyler Adkins, 2013


Lindsey, Tyler, Abby, and Faith enjoy a special treat on our last day in Kenya – cold sodas in front of Mt. Shompole, at the edge of the Great Rift Valley.


August 19, 2013   1 Comment