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Grow the Zoo’s Best Plants for Pollinators in Your Own Yard

After more than 25 years of trialing plants, the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden knows which plants grow and look best in our region. We’ve narrowed down that list to the plants that most benefit pollinators to create the Zoo’s Best Plants for Pollinators Plant Series.

Working with local plant growers, we have introduced a Zoo-branded line of plants that are easy-to-grow, beautiful, and pollinator-friendly. Available for purchase at many independent local garden centers, a portion of the proceeds support the Botanical Gardens at the Zoo. Download the list of plants and participating retailers here: Zoo’s Best Plants for Pollinators.

3D 1quart Zoo's Best 11-23-15(4)

Why plant for pollinators?

Pollinators are beneficial

All of us enjoy the beauty that the many species of butterflies and moths bring to our lives, and we depend on honeybees to pollinate a huge proportion of our food crops. That is just a small part of what pollinators do. Thousands of species of native bees, wasps, and flies ensure reliable pollination throughout the ecosystem so that abundant crops of seeds regenerate wild areas and also provide seeds and fruits for birds and other wildlife to eat. Just as importantly, many pollinating insects also prey upon pest insect species, such as aphids and scale, which ensures a more balanced, healthier garden and ecosystem.

Pollination in progress! (Photo: DJJAM)

Pollination in progress! (Photo: DJJAM)

Pollinators are under pressure

Pollinator numbers are falling due to loss of habitat and other pressures. Your yard can provide valuable habitat to help support healthy populations of pollinators.

Make your yard a thriving oasis for pollinators!

  • Include Zoo’s Best Plants for Pollinators in your yard to attract and provide for pollinators.
  • Limit use of pesticides. Only spray when necessary, seek expert advice, and follow label instructions exactly if you do use them.
  • Provide sources of water, such as a birdbath or a water feature.
Pipeline swallowtail on Zinnia Zahara 'Fire'

Pipeline swallowtail on Zinnia Zahara ‘Fire’

Come see us at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden!

These plants and many others are part of every Zoo visitor’s experience. Come see us! Enjoy our gardens as well as the World of the Insect exhibit to learn more about these fascinating and beneficial animals.

World of the Insect (Photo: DJJAM)

World of the Insect (Photo: DJJAM)

April 13, 2016   No Comments

How to Keep Your Zoo Visit Alive After You Get Home

Guest blogger: Kristina Meek, Education Intern

Visiting the Zoo can leave you feeling refreshed, happy, and enlightened. Tap into that energy and think about how you can keep that excitement going for yourself and your family once you go back home. It can be a simple everyday act or a lifestyle change. Give these ideas a try and share your own suggestions in the comments.

Share what you learned. Don’t just share your photos on Facebook; share something more. Sit down with your family while the visit is still fresh in your minds and try to recall a “fun fact” about an animal. Then share that in a post. For example, share a picture you took of a giraffe with something like “Amazing — a giraffe has the same number of vertebrae in its neck as a person!” If you have a child in Zoo Troop and you’re sharing photos from class, remember to use the hashtag #cincyzootroop.

Capturing a moment to share on Facebook (Photo: Dr. ChengLun Na)

Capturing a moment to share on Facebook (Photo: Dr. ChengLun Na)

Learn more. Connect with the Zoo on social media and follow the Zoo blog to keep up with what’s going on with our animals, exhibits, events and conservation efforts. We are on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube and Google+.

Appreciate the “wild” side of your pets. If you have a family dog, remind your kids that their pooch is related to the Mexican grey wolves you saw in Wolf Woods. Make similar connections for cats, birds or fish. Kids learn to respect nature when they see it reflected in their everyday lives.

Mexican grey wolf (Photo: Kathy Newton)

Mexican grey wolf (Photo: Kathy Newton)

Recycle and compost. You and your family have the power to keep the planet healthy for all animals… including humans! Curbside recycling has made reducing your trash a no-brainer. This website lets you search by ZIP code to find facilities to recycle items that can’t be put in your bin. Arguably even easier than recycling is composting. Here’s one source of information on how to do it. By disposing of food or yard waste in this responsible way, you’ll reduce the amount of greenhouse gases coming from landfills.

A.D.O.P.T. a Zoo animal. For as little as $30, you and your family can symbolically adopt anything from a meerkat to a manatee. You’ll get a color photo and fact sheet about the animal, plus additional benefits at higher giving levels. Your children will learn not only about animals, but about philanthropy and the great feeling you get when you give back.

Encourage backyard research. You can’t visit the Zoo every day, but if you have a backyard or a nearby park, there’s probably plenty of wildlife there doing its thing. Let your kids explore, on their own, or with you. They might identify birds, spot tadpoles in a creek, look for deer tracks, or learn to imitate an owl. Think of your surroundings as your own mini-zoo.

Volunteer. The Zoo offers volunteer opportunities for ages 13 and up, in a variety of roles that fit your talents. Likewise, park districts, nature centers, and museums need and appreciate the contributions of people like you. Start Googling and see what you discover close to home.

We love our volunteers! (Photo: DJJAM)

We love our volunteers! (Photo: DJJAM)

Thanks for visiting the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden. We hope you’ll take a little piece of the Zoo with you wherever you are!

April 5, 2016   1 Comment

Manatee Appreciation Day Finds Us Cautiously Optimistic About the Future of Manatees in the Wild

Are manatees bouncing back from the brink of extinction? Recent aerial counts conducted by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission suggest it may be so. A record 6,250 manatees were recorded in Florida this past winter, breaking the last record of 5,077 manatees in 2010.

Florida manatee, Crystal River, Florida, USA

Florida manatee, Crystal River, Florida, USA

Last month, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) proposed reclassifying the West Indian manatee, which includes the Florida subspecies, from “endangered” to “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act. By definition, an endangered species is a “species which is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range” and a threatened species is a “species which is likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range.” USFWS believes that the West Indian manatee is no longer in danger of extinction throughout all of its range due to decades of conservation efforts. The proposal is available for public review and comment until April 8, and the agency will announce its final decision sometime in 2017.

If USFWS does end up reclassifying the manatee to threatened, the existing Federal protection and conservation laws should remain unchanged. However, some entities like the Save the Manatee Club think the manatee population has not recovered well enough to be downlisted just yet. Outside of the United States, manatee populations are still declining in 84% of their range countries (in Mexico, Central and South America).

Whether manatees are reclassified or not, all parties agree that they continue to face serious threats that must be addressed to ensure the species’ survival. The Florida manatee, specifically, is at risk from both natural and man-made causes of injury and mortality. Exposure to red tide, cold stress, and disease are all natural problems that can affect manatees. Human-caused threats include habitat loss, boat strikes, crushing by flood gates or locks, and entanglement in or ingestion of fishing gear.

BamBam is the newest manatee resident at the Cincinnati Zoo

BamBam is the newest manatee resident at the Cincinnati Zoo

Take BamBam, the newest and youngest manatee currently residing at the Zoo, for example. BamBam was rescued from the DeSoto Canal in Brevard County in January 2015. He was suffering from cold stress and has some tissue damage on his tail as a result. Manatees are susceptible to cold stress syndrome, which can be fatal, when water temperatures fall below 68 degrees Farenheit. Historically, manatees would overwinter in natural warm water springs. However, as development has altered or taken over many of those natural springs, manatees have become dependent on warm water discharge from power plants. As technology improves, power plants become more energy-efficient, which is a good thing except that it means they are discharging cooler water, leaving the manatees out in the cold. We need to protect and restore natural warm water habitats to alleviate this problem.

BamBam lost parts of his tail to cold stress syndrome.

BamBam lost parts of his tail to cold stress syndrome.

BamBam came to Cincinnati in October 2015 for long-term rehabilitation. The Cincinnati Zoo is one of two U.S. Zoos outside of Florida that participate in the USFWS’ Manatee Rescue, Rehabilitation and Release Program. The goal of the program is to rescue and treat sick, injured and orphaned manatees and then release them back into the wild. Since 1999, the Zoo has rehabilitated and released 12 manatees. Once BamBam fully recovers, he will make lucky number 13. Stay tuned to keep up with BamBam’s progress.

On this Manatee Appreciation Day, we find ourselves cautiously optimistic about the future of manatees in the wild and are proud to play our part in their recovery.

March 30, 2016   No Comments