Roger Williams Park Zoo is dedicated to the conservation of several conservation programs across the globe. We strive to aid conservation efforts through public outreach and our contributions to research in the U.S., and by funding elephant and amphibian conservation projects worldwide. In the past decade, we have dedicated an immeasurable amount of staff time and expertise, and to date we will have invested thousands of dollars to improve the future prospects for these animals.
Roger Williams Park Zoo currently has three female African elephants, Alice, Ginny and Kate, as part of our Fabric of Africa exhibit area. Having these wonderful creatures in our Zoo not only brings people closer to nature, but also makes it possible for us to educate the public on elephant conservation issues and urges them to take action locally.
Our elephants also aid us in the research of elephant reproductive cycles. We had tried for a number of years to artificially inseminate one of our females to support the captive elephant population. This procedure was unfortunately not successful. However, we continue to provide samples in support of this crucial research to animal research.
Over the past 12 years, we have contributed thousands of dollars to the following elephant conservation projects:
AZA Elephant Welfare Initiative
While supporting conservation programs in the wild, Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) institutions are also caring for 147 African and 141 Asian elephants in 62 AZA-accredited institutions.
International Elephant Foundation
The International Elephant Foundation is a 501c(3) nonprofit organization that provides financial support for a wide variety of elephant conservation and related scientific and educational projects worldwide. Roger Williams Park Zoo supports this organization with an annual gift of $5,000. Thus far, the Zoo's contribution is $50,000.
Tarangire Elephant Project
Dr. Charles Foley began The Tarangire Elephant Project (TEP) in 1993 as part of his study of the effects of poaching on African elephants. He has been collecting demographic data on the northern sub-population of elephants almost continuously since then. Dr. Foley and his staff know more than 800 elephants individually, which is probably the second largest elephant database in Africa – second only to that of Amboseli National Park. Important research focuses on the impact of poaching on elephant social systems, and is the first project to carry out hormonal studies of female elephants in the wild. Roger Williams Park Zoo is funding a permanent in-country employment position to foster a positive human-to-elephant relationship, and teach villagers how to coexist peacefully and safely with elephants. To date the Zoo has donated more than $70,000 to this project.
We are thrilled to share that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced a near-total ban on the commercial trade of African elephant ivory in the United States (the world's second largest illegal ivory market). This final rule, effective July 6, 2016, restricts the sale of ivory to only legally imported, genuine antiques and musical instruments, as well as limit the import of sport-hunted trophies, prohibits the sale of ivory that was part of a move or household inheritance, and places prohibitions and restrictions on foreign commercial and noncommercial enterprise.
These measures will ensure a future for elephants in the wild, and help to significantly reduce the rampant killings in their native habitat. Learn more.
Your support of the Zoo through the purchase of memberships, admission tickets, and participation in our fundraising events helps to support our elephant conservation efforts locally and throughout the world.
In addition, please read below about another very important initiative that the Zoo is undertaking this summer, and consider becoming an active elephant conservationist in your own local community.
Join the Herd
RWP Zoo partners with the Wildlife Conservation Society’s 96 Elephants Campaign to raise public awareness of the elephant poaching-crisis in Africa. Poachers kill about 96 elephants each day for their ivory. Poachers carve the ivory into intricate designs and sell to unknowing consumers throughout the world. You might be surprised to hear that the United States is the second largest illegal ivory market in the world, next to China as number one.
Scientists estimate that at least one-third of the world's known amphibian species are under the threar of extinction. Never in documented history has an entire class of species faced such rapid extinction in today's global amphibian crisis. The World Conservation Union (IUCN) estimates that at least one-third of known amphibian species could become extinct.
While habitat loss, climate change and pollution all contribute to the threat, researchers have found that a fungal disease known as Chytridiomycosis (chytrid) is proving exceptionally deadly and is believed to be the major cause of amphibian species’ decline. Experts agree that the only way to prevent the most threatened of these species from becoming extinct is to breed them in captivity, until the chytrid epidemic either runs its course, or methods can be found to eradicate it.
Roger Williams Park Zoo has been a supporting partner of The El Valle Amphibian Conservation Center (EVACC) in Panama for seven years. Spearheaded by the Houston Zoo, the EVACC receives support from a number of other Association of Zoos and Aquariums AZA zoos and aquariums, academic institutions, and international conservation organizations. The Center focuses on the research, captive management, and exhibition of western Panama’s endangered and threatened amphibians. A major goal is to ensure that the people of Panama continue to manage these local endangered populations into the future.
To maintain a captive population successfully, the animals must have a healthy diet. The EVACC’s existing method of capturing hundreds of insects each day was becoming very time consuming, threatened to deplete the local populations, and would not have been sustainable as the number of rescued and bred amphibians grew.
From 2007- 2010, Zoo director of conservation programs Lou Perrotti led efforts at the Center to establish captive colonies of native invertebrates to provide an efficient food source for the rescued amphibians there. With funding and additional staff from Roger Williams Park Zoo, Perrotti drew on his invertebrate expertise to build a rearing facility at EVACC. He taught invertebrate husbandry techniques to Center staff so they could properly feed the endangered amphibian species they rescue and breed.
The success of EVACC and the need to expand capacity to establish assurance populations (captive populations of amphibians at risk) in Eastern Panama prompted new partners to establish the Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project (PARC) in Gamboa. In 2011, a $6,100 grant from Disney’s Wild Animal Kingdom made it possible to purchase materials needed to improve the insect breeding facilities, support a staff person dedicated to the insect breeding program, and cover expenses for Perrotti and his partner from Toronto Zoo, Tom Mason, when they made their annual spring trips to oversee the project.
Roger Williams Park Zoo invested $3,000 per year from 2007 - 2012 to develop and support the invertebrate project. Other resources included a previous grant from Disney, funds contributed by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Terrestrial Invertebrate Taxon Advisory Group, and by our Roger Williams Park Zoo’s chapter of the American Association of Zoo Keepers.
The PARC may serve as an in-country ex-situ program model to other countries facing a drastic loss in amphibian populations in the future, as conservationists around the world try to halt the extinction of these species. Now that the facilities are set up and running on their own, RWP Zoo continues to provide consulting support to the project, with hopes of increasing the number of insects produced and replicating this project in other regions of the world.
Questions? Contact Louis Perrotti, director of conservation programs at Lperrotti@rwpzoo.org or call (401) 785-3510 ext. 335.