Guest blogger: Sophie Williams, Advanced Inquiry Program (AIP) student and consultant on the Passenger Pigeon Memorial renovation
The passenger pigeon was once the most abundant bird in North America, and perhaps the world. In 1800, North America was filled with more than five billion passenger pigeons. It is hard to imagine the scope of their flocks. In 1813, ornithologist and wildlife painter John J. Audubon calculated a single flock he observed in Kentucky to contain more than 1,115,000,000 birds! An authority on the passenger pigeon noted that the birds moved “in such enormous numbers as to confound the senses.” Many reports described flocks of the birds blotting out the sun.
It is difficult to fully understand what it would be like to look up and see a flock of these birds flying overheard, to hear their billions of wings beating together, to feel the air moving over you from their flight. We may find the massive flock of starlings, called a murmuration, in this video unbelievable, but to imagine what a flock of passenger pigeons might be like, you would have to multiply the size of this murmuration by thousands!
The story of the passenger pigeon is a poignant example of nature’s abundance and humanity’s ability to exhaust seemingly endless riches. We also have the ability to save today’s imperiled species from suffering the same fate. The Cincinnati Zoo is part of an international effort called Project Passenger Pigeon, which will bring together scientists, conservationists, educators, and artists, musicians, and filmmakers to increase awareness of the passenger pigeon’s story and use it as an opportunity to engage people in current issues related to human-caused extinction, promote species conservation and habitat preservation, and motivate people to get involved in sustainable actions that promote biodiversity and deter future human-caused extinctions.
Those of you in the Cincinnati area can experience a larger-than-life version of world-renowned wildlife painter John Ruthven’s latest painting titled Martha, the Last Passenger Pigeon. Reproduced as a mural on the side of a building at 15 E. Eighth St. in downtown Cincinnati, it features a flock of passenger pigeons, led by Martha, in flight at the Zoo. The mural was dedicated on September 19. Forty years ago, John Ruthven captained an effort to create the Passenger Pigeon Memorial at our Zoo to honor the passing of the passenger pigeon and Martha. He is now collaborating with us to renovate the memorial in time for the 100th anniversary of Martha’s death.
Tune in each month as we celebrate what’s working in wildlife conservation leading up to the commemoration of 100 years since Martha, the last passenger pigeon, died at the Cincinnati Zoo.
To read the first post in this series, click here.
October 1, 2013 2 Comments
Another great post from a Zoo Academy student guest blogger:
Hello, I am Brian Garcia. I am a Zoo Academy senior. The Zoo Academy is a high school program offered through Hughes STEM High School for Upper Classmen. In the morning, the juniors are at the Zoo and seniors are at Hughes, and in the afternoon, the seniors are at the Zoo and juniors are at Hughes. This school is one of a kind. We are the only school in the world that can see giraffes out the window. Also, at the end of our senior year we get a certificate stating that we have had training in exotic animal husbandry, which is another thing that this school is known for.
I am now going to talk about my one of my lab experiences. In my junior year, one of my first rotations was in the elephant house where I had to clean up after them. After a couple of weeks of hard work, I had an experience of a lifetime; I was able to give Mai-Thai (the Zoo’s oldest elephant) a bath and got my picture taken with her. I was amazed at how well she listened to the keeper.
Another experience that I had earlier this year was when I was doing a project on cheetahs. I interviewed the Cat Show keepers. After I interviewed them, they asked if I needed any pictures of the cheetahs. The keepers told me to come back the next week to take some pictures. So when the next week came by, I went back up to the Cat Show. I didn’t think that I was going to go into an actual cheetah pen, but I got to go in with Tommy T! It was so cool, I got to meet him and get some funny pictures of a cheetah. It was a little hard because cheetahs don’t stay still, but it was fun!
My most recent experience was handling the newest members of the interpretive collection, the Apalachicola king snakes. It was awesome. For a week, I got to handle and help socialize two beautiful creatures. They were very shy at first, but once they got to know that I was not going to hurt them they were so active and liked to explore.
This program for me is a godsend. I was contemplating dropping out of high school because I lost my drive to go to school and to better myself. Coming here and learning about animals sparked my inner drive to finish high school. I could honestly say that if it was not for this I would have no idea on what I would want to do with my life. Now I know that I want to be an Environmental Scientist working on waste water management, to help stop the pollution of our water ways.
December 10, 2012 1 Comment
Meet Christen, our current Education Department intern:
Hey guys! My name is Christen and I have a few positions in the Education Department here at the Zoo, but just taught my first youth program in November. The kids learned all about the relationships between animals and their mothers in “Does a Kangaroo have a Mother, too?” It was awesome watching my three-year-olds put facts and concepts together and understand that every animal on Earth, including the wildest of animals (of course, I’m talking about those three-year-olds) come from their mother and have a very special and unique relationship with them. They even got to meet (and touch) Keystone, our baby American Alligator! How many three-year-olds can say they have touched an American Alligator? What a great story to tell the family at Christmas!
Of course, after such a great experience teaching my first class, I had to know what we were offering in December. The program is called “Bird Treats.” Are you ready for this? The kids get to make a bird feeder! Now, they are three-year-olds, so the bird feeder is comprised of cereal and popcorn, but what a cool craft! And they will be able to take that home with them and watch the birds eat it right in their own backyard, reinforcing everything they will have learned in the program. They will learn a lot about our feathered friends while they are here, and you never know, they might even have a feathered visitor!
“Does a Kangaroo have a Mother, too?” and “Bird Treats” are programs that are specific to three-year-olds, but we have great programs here for every age group and for the whole family, too! All of the educators here (tooting my own horn) are very talented and you’re sure to have a positive experience attending any of these programs. If you’ve never tried one, go ahead and check them out! You can find all of the information here: http://cincinnatizoo.org/education/kids-families/
December 10, 2012 1 Comment