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ZooAmerica North American Wildlife Park displays an ongoing commitment to conservation. A key component in all of our educational offerings is to orient the participants towards an awareness of conservation issues. We actively support conservation efforts through financial commitments and donations to the Conservation Endowment Fund of the American Zoo and Aquarium Association. Through our support and commitment towards these organizations we can aid both worldwide and local conservation efforts undertaken by others. Direct involvement by ZooAmerica in many conservation programs continues to benefit species in Pennsylvania and other areas of North America..
One of the biggest conservation projects at ZooAmerica is one you won’t actually see during a regular visit: reintroduction of the Regal Fritillary butterfly.
Since 2011, ZooAmerica has been involved in a cooperative project with Fort Indiantown Gap to raise Regal Fritillary butterflies for release into new areas of the state. The Regal Fritillary is a species of great conservation concern. They have disappeared from their entire historic range east of Indiana, except for a single population found at Fort Indiantown Gap. At this military reservation, about ten miles north of Hershey, Regal Fritillaries thrive in the prairie-like landscape of the firing ranges.
Our third season of rearing the endangered Regal Fritillary came to an end in early August 2015. 1748 caterpillars were put out onto 4 release sites. 18 butterflies were released that were raised on zoo grounds. Two of the release sites were successful and staff will now work to expand these sites.
After just a few weeks, the fourth season is already under way. There are eight Regal Fritillary butterflies in the medical building that are busy laying eggs. Naturalists have already collected a couple hundred eggs and anticipate 8000 hatchling caterpillars!
Attendees at ZooCamp, a ZooAmerica day camp program, participated in the construction of American Kestrel nest boxes. Once common across the Pennsylvania countryside, the kestrel is now declining in some parts of the northeastern United States. Although kestrels are well-adapted to a wide variety of habitats, a decrease in the amount of foraging habitat and the number of suitable nest sites has led to a decline in the northeastern population. In addition, changes in farming practices, loss of agricultural areas and changes to traditional habitats have had a negative impact.
Kestrels do not build their own nests. Instead, 4-6 eggs are laid in abandoned woodpecker holes or natural tree cavities. The practice of removing dead trees limits nest sites for the birds. Fortunately, kestrels will use manmade nest boxes, and placing these boxes in open habitat or farmland is known to boost kestrel numbers. It also allows the population to expand into previously unused locations. By providing nestboxes, our ZooCampers have contributed to the future of this small falcon. The nest boxes will be distributed throughout the local region.
ZooAmerica has exhibited Peregrine Falcons since 1979. In 1987, we constructed off-exhibit breeding chambers on the Zoo site for the sole purpose of developing a breeding program capable of supplying birds for release in Pennsylvania. In addition to the pair of birds on exhibit, three additional pairs are housed for breeding purposes. The first successful breeding took place in 1995 and resulted in two birds being released from hacking sites in Pennsylvania. One of the birds released from ZooAmerica has been identified by its band and it has paired with another falcon found nesting along the Susquehanna River. The breeding program is an ongoing program at the Zoo.
In addition to the release of birds, we also coordinated and funded the construction and placement of artificial nest boxes on cliff sites in the Susquehanna River basin. To date, four of these platforms have been placed in cooperation with the Pennsylvania Game Commission and the assistance of volunteers. We also provided materials for two additional nest boxes that were placed on rooftops in downtown Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
As peregrine falcons were removed from the endangered species list we began to shift gears with the program. Instead of breeding the birds we now are displaying some important founding fathers from Pennsylvania breeding programs. For years a pair of peregrine falcons had been nesting on the Rachel Carson Federal Building in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. When the male was found with a severely injured wing, he was taken to Dauphin Wildcare for rehabilitation and it was determined that his injuries would prevent him from flying properly again. The falcon was considered non-releasable. Dauphin Wildcare turned the falcon over to ZooAmerica.
The peregrine falcon is now on display at the Zoo. We also received a male peregrine falcon that had been part of a nesting pair from the Girard Point Bridge in Philadelphia. This falcon was also non-releasable. A third injured peregrine will make its way to the Zoo shortly, this time a female from the Pittsburgh area. Non-releasable birds can receive the proper nutritional and veterinary needs in a captive setting like a zoo. They also are able to teach visitors about their species.
ZooAmerica is home to a pair of endangered Thick-billed Parrots. These birds are located here in cooperation with the Species Survival Plan (SSP) coordinated by the American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA). The birds were selected and paired to provide the best genetic representation in offspring hatched in captivity. The AZA and SSP are working together to protect the thick-billed parrot habitat in Mexico where a number of parrots reside.
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201 Park Avenue - Hershey, PA 17033 - 717-534-3900 - ZooAmerica@HersheyPA.com