10 ZACC Interviews......

Name:  Lynn Harris

Organization:  Seneca Park Zoo

Email: harris8@frontiernet.net

 

Who or what inspired you to support conservation?

I attended the first ZACC conference in 1995 on a whim. It sounded like a unique opportunity to gain information that could enhance docent programs at our zoo. Our Zoo Society director (separate entity from the zoo) at the time agreed to pay my conference fee since I provided my own transportation and had a place to stay in Columbus. At that time, Seneca Park Zoo was not yet involved in conservation projects.

 

The conference was beyond my expectations, showed me what was going on in the field, and convinced me that even a small effort could have an impact. When I returned home, I took information from the conference to the Zoo and Zoo Society staff but they weren’t able to support any outside projects. So, I talked to our docent organization. Within a year, we had formed a Docent Conservation Committee and made small donations to two projects, one in Madagascar, and one locally-based. With the help of our zoo veterinarian, we also created some education materials and displays that we presented to visitors at the zoo. 

 

So I guess my first inspiration came from ZACC itself in showing me what can be done. I greatly admire everyone who is out there making a difference. These feelings draw me back to every conference. My inspiration continues, and is magnified by docents who share my dedication to passing on the conservation message to our zoo visitors.By the way, Seneca Park Zoo is now involved in several conservation projects as well as being very supportive of the work that docents do.  

 

Tell us your ZACC story:

At the 2009 ZACC conference in Houston my conference partner Carol Merkel and I met Dr. Hotlin Ompusunggu, director of ASRI, the Borneo-based partner of Health and Harmony. We were very impressed with this organization, which brings health care and conservation education to poor villages around Gunung Palung National Park. The forest conservation they promote also helps to protect habitat for orangutans. We brought information on the project back to our Docent Conservation Committee, where it was agreed that we would send some monetary support.

 

Fast forward to 2015. Today, Seneca Park Zoo has adopted Health and Harmony, and made it one of our flagship programs. Zoo veterinarian Dr. Jeff Wyatt has involved the University of Rochester Medical School, which now sends medical students to ASRI’s clinics. Dr. Wyatt also goes to Borneo and works with the Goats for Widows program. The Zoo recently sponsored Dr. Monica Nirmala, ASRI’s present director, when she came to Rochester to give a talk about the organization. We’re very proud that docents brought Health and Harmony to the zoo’s attention.

 

What is your favorite ZACC memory?

I actually have two favorite memories. One is of the first conference in 1995. Even though I was just a docent, Beth Armstrong and Rebecca Rose warmly welcomed me. And while everyone else was friendly, too, I still sat there like a mouse in a corner, totally overwhelmed by all of these conservation and zoo professionals and the work they do. I was especially awed by the field researchers. I continue to have the greatest respect for these people who have such passion for their projects.

 

The other memory is of a presentation that National Geographic photographer Nick Nichols gave at one of the first ZACC conferences. He showed a picture of a tiger that had been surprised in a camera trap. The look on that tiger’s face was one that I will never forget.

 

 

Name:  Arturo Muñoz Saravia       

Organization: Bolivian Amphibian Initiative

Email: hyla_art@yahoo.com

 

Who or what inspired you to support conservation?

Tell us about it:

The constant contact that I had with nature while I was kid provided me a close relationship and desire to be always connected to nature, also learning different things about different species, ecosystems through German documentaries explaining how everything works and some basics about conservation. Being able to assist to a course organized by Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust with the “amphibian conservation course”, I changed my life from just field biologist and taxonomist to one person that wants to work for amphibian conservation.

 

Tell us your ZACC story:

Who did you meet?

I met different people working in both, zoos and in the field trying to work for conservation. All of them with different histories and experiences but all of them with the same idea, trying to save species from extinction.

 

What resulted?

First of all showed me that we are not alone in this way to work in conservation, also to see some other realities and experiences that I could use in my work. Thanks to the opportunity to share my work I was able to talk with a lot of people that are now interested to find a way to work together in the project I am coordinating. I made new friends but most important we found new partners that could help us to be more effective in the amphibian conservation that we are trying to develop.

 

What is your favorite ZACC memory?

All the positive energy with all the people working for the same goal -  for the conservation of the different species.

 

 

Name: Wally Van Sickle

Organization: IDEA WILD

Email: ideawild@ideawild.org

 

Who or what inspired you to support conservation?

Mary Hall Park – a small 10-acre park near my parents house in Rapid City South Dakota

 

Tell us about it:

Spent my childhood exploring and catching critters in that park. Did a vertebrate survey of the park when I was in 10th grade including photographing all the birds.

 

Tell us your ZACC story: 

First conference was at the Brevard Zoo (Florida)

 

What is your favorite ZACC memory?

Too many to mention but I really enjoy meeting all the IEAWILD equipment recipients and hearing their stories.

 

 

Name: Ang Dhuri Sherpa

Organization: Red Panda Network

Email: ang.sherpa@redpandanetwork.org

 

Who or what inspired you to support conservation?

A person?  Shivani Bhalla

 

Tell us about it:

She is a great storyteller. She made me feel as if I was there. Really felt great! We need more such story-tellers and lovers of animals.

 

Tell us your ZACC story:

It was my first time and I got to meet many great people from whom I could learn and emulate. And also enhanced my network for future funding.  I enjoyed every moment here at the ZACC conference. Especially meeting with zoo people and conservation partners. Learned a great deal about how other people do things differently.   One of my suggestions to ZACC is that if zoos could create larger multi-year grants so that we could work in larger landscapes with bringing larger impact in the future.

 

 

Name: Terence Fuh Neba

Organization: WWF Central African Republic

Email: tnebea@wwfcar.org

 

Who or what inspired you to support conservation?

 

A person - Tell us about it:

After graduating from university with a degree in Environmental Science, I came across a conservationist David Greer working for WWF in Cameroon. He gave me the opportunity to volunteer in a gorilla habituation program. During this time, I got to know more about wildlife and found out they were threatened, then decided to join the course of conserving them.

 

Tell us your ZACC story:

Who did you meet?  Kristen Lukas

 

What resulted?

Possibility of raising funds to support my PhD and also being a co-supervisor.

 

What is your favorite ZACC memory?

My favorite memory is the panel discussion “Improving zoo engagement with conservation” I saw how much zoos are doing to conserve animals in the wild. I also saw how the different zoos are making an effort to increase their efforts – by actually not just being a donor but actively involved in the field projects.

 

 

Name: Erin Stotz

Organization:  Denver Zoo

Email: estotz@denverzoo.org

 

Who or what inspired you to support conservation?

 “yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. today I am wise, so I am changing myself” -Rumi
            
Growing up, changing the world always seemed like an acceptable challenge, until I learned that one only needs to change their perspective to achieve change in the world. This seemingly easy solution has taken years of interactions with the world to open my mind, humble my existence, and as Walt Whitman so eloquently said, “reexamine all I have been told and dismiss whatever insults my soul.”

One could say that I grew up exploring nature throughout my childhood, and this lead to my love of conservation – and while that might hold some truth, if we are being honest, I made the decision during an environmental science course in college. My professor at the time was creative, eccentric and lived a life that was outside of my everyday norm – he was kind, intelligent and to me, free. I gravitated towards not only his lifestyle, but his outlook on life. He told me that “finding inspiration is like having a cup of coffee every morning- it is something that I need, every day” – when I asked how he cultivated this daily inspiration he told me about his experience in the Peace Corps. That was it for me; I signed up for the Peace Corps the next day. During my time abroad – I came to the realization that I have always been fascinated by the undeniable correlation between people and the environment, and since have spent the past decade immersed in the field of conservation. Working in conservation is not a career, it’s a calling and a choice that I make every day, and could not be happier!

 

Tell us your ZACC story:

We are passionate, intelligent and motivated, which is why conservationists enter the field we do. Yet, this line of work can be filled with challenge, loss of hope and questioning of whether positive change is even possible.

 

In attending my first ZACC at Woodland Park Zoo, I felt at home and among people that just “got it” and collectively, we were all in it together. Listening to speakers express their inspiration, challenges and hopes for the future - reminded me why I have made the decisions that got me to where I am today, which is exactly where I need to be. Other than traveling, nothing refocuses your life or puts you outside of your everyday context more than participating in a new opportunity with an open-mind. The conference gave me a fresh, new perspective that I was looking for and the source of inspiration I was currently lacking in my professional life, and surprisingly, my personal life. The inspiration that I gained from ZACC added creativity to a larger vision of how I can engage communities in conservation.

 

Before I knew it, I was throwing my bags in the car and making the 11 hour drive to Des Moines, Iowa to attend my second ZACC!  Being from the Midwest, I was excited to be back home, with the humidity, humility and humor that makes this part of the country special. This atmosphere contributed to such a great conference hosted by Blank Park Zoo, and never failed to remind people that no action big or small should go unnoticed. A different state, a different host – but the same message, which I always quote Margaret Mead when describing ZACC - “never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has”
 

What is your favorite ZACC memory? 

Honestly, it was hearing the announcement that Denver Zoo would be hosting ZACC. At the time, I had no idea how the conference would unfold, but I knew that I felt excitement and gratitude that Denver Zoo was chosen to host such a special conference, and that I was going to be a part of something great! Sincere appreciation to the ZACC Steering Committee, especially Beth Armstrong, for the opportunity to participate in a conference that encourages positive change in the world and oneself!

 

 

Name:  Jonathan Ismail

Organization: Omaha Zoo/Lincoln Public Schools

Email:  ismail.jonathan@gmail.com  jismail@lps.org

 

Who or what inspired you to support conservation?

A person?

Preschool -  a teacher who had us catch tadpole outside and rear them back in the classroom. 20 years later I still love frogs!

 

Tell us about it:

Zoos – as a child, lived nearby and visited Detroit Zoo often. Completely barless, I assumed all “modern” zoos were the same.

 

Tell us your ZACC story:

As a former Iowan, it was a no-brainer to attend the 2013 ZACC conference in Des Moines. I am so proud of Blank Park Zoo for transforming themselves since I moved to Iowa in 2007 – and aggressively supporting conservation with fun, awesome projects!

 

Who did you meet?

Zoo professionals. Field researchers from amazing programs I’d otherwise never learn about!

 

What resulted?

Raises the stakes as an educator! I left motivated and inspired to use conservation success stories as a vehicle for social and environmental change. The key is developing the right messaging for the right audiences (internal, guests, management….) and implementing strategies to make a difference.

 

What is your favorite ZACC memory?

ZACC 2013 memory: – several hour role-play with Amy Dickman (Ruaha carnivore Project) activity. At the same time we met, a college friend had just left for 18 months of hyena social hierarchy research in Tanzania. I met a “real” field researcher – made an emotional connect – and learned how she had made a difference to save the world.  And I was partly motivated to start a work/conservation social media presence after the ZACC 2013 –

Twitter - @zooscience

 

2015 ZACC memory: - Effusive public recognition for sustainability/Green Team and “conservation boutique” efforts of my Omaha Zoo supervisor, Stephanie Huettner. Without any organizational support, she’s raised over $20,000 for in situ groups (SLT, chopsticks for salamander, etc) and continuse to initiate recycling, energy consumption - at one of the most highly attended AZA facilities. My zoo heart warmed.

 

 

Name:  Monica R. Nirmala

Organization:  Health in Harmony/ US     Alam Sehat Lestari/Indonesia

Email: monica@alamsehatlestari.org

 

Who or what inspired you to support conservation?

I grew up in a city. I didn’t get exposure to wildlife. Most animals that I’s seen were in a zoo. I started to work in conservation actually from a human aspect. I work at a clinic as a dentist who serves the local community of Gunung Palung National Park. This care is an incentive to the community for protecting the rainforest. By working there, I could see that human and environmental health is inextricably linked.  Rainforests are important for human health. By being exposed more and more to the rainforests, its importance to the planet’s health, and the great need to tackle climate change impact, now I’m more inspired to work in conservation as well as human health.

 

Tell us your ZACC story:

Who did you meet?

I met conservation heroes from all over the world.

 

What resulted?

I’m so inspired by the commitment and dedication of people to wildlife and local community from a very small scale to nation-wide initiatives. They bring me hope, that together we can change the world better.

 

What is your favorite ZACC memory?

 

1.All the keynote talks. Really inspiring. I learned so much. Shivani Bhalla and Francine Madden had emphasized the importance of local community participation and engagement in conservation work. They are the actual heroes and makers of sustainable change. Wally Van Sickle has proven that small projects could bring big great impacts. Peter Knights has shown that decreasing demands could stop killing.

2. Movie Night – the films are high quality! I really liked the documentary about frog scrotum juice – It was touching, surprising, educational, entertaining and inspiring at the same time.

 

 

Name: Anne Warner

Organization: Conservation Strategies

Email:  annewarner@gmail.com

 

Who or what inspired you to support conservation?

A book?

Gerald Durrell’s books-

 

Tell us about it:

I was so inspired by the tales of saving wildlife and in situ adventures told in these books (like My Family and Other Animals) that at age 12, I knew conservation was what I wanted to do. While the road here has not been direct, I feel like I have been able to made a contribution.

 

Tell us your ZACC story:

Who did you meet? 

Back when I was starting to find projects to support, I met all my field partners at ZAAC.

 

What resulted?

In the intervening years I have had the fortune to visit several field sites and continue my long-term relationship with these remarkable people. Miruim, Thushan, Claudine, Bala, Mark, later Amy Dickman and many others.

 

What is your favorite ZACC memory?

I am so moved by the stories we hear each time, I look forward to the conversations with dedicated people from the zoo and aquarium world and from the field. Such a reunion; sobering, humbling, inspiring. I look forward to each new conference. Hearing about the Lake Titicaca frogs and Bala’s accomplishments were the most poignant moments this time.

 

 

Name: Alejandro Morales

Organization: ARCAS, Guatemala

Email: amorales@arcasguatemala.org

 

Who or what inspired you to support conservation?

MUSIC, many years ago I heard an album by a Guatemalan Band (Alux Nahuatl - Americamorfosis) which had a song or two with heavy environmental messages, this added to my innate desire to be in nature and my parents giving me all the resources they could to achieve my goals and not cutting my imagination short.

 

A book?

A little, not too much, although I liked to read books about animals and nature as a whole. Jonathan Livingston Seagull had much to do, on the motivational side more than the animal side, although thinking about it, much of the “motivational” books have names of animals…

 

A person?

As supporters, my parents. As teachers loads of persons, but most than any, the ones that do not care, the ones that pollute, because they are the ones we need to educate, those are the ones that made me think that I had to reach and help them change, it was not to see someone already doing great good things, it was seeing so many people doing everyday small bad things that made me realize how little the general population cares and how much of a responsibility we (the ones that have noticed that conservation is a MUST) have towards them and everybody else.

 

A documentary or movie?

I loved to see them, but mainly because it set my goals of what I wanted to see and do in my future.

 

Tell us your ZACC story: Who did you meet?

Many many great people. The committee that keeps ZACC running to begin, I’ve met the tapir people, the chimpanzee people, the sustainable wood people, the tiger people, the bear people, the slow loris people, the orangutan people, I’ve met the conservation heroes all over. The men and women behind the scenes in the zoos and aquariums that aid conservation efforts, the individuals that done time and work, a little here a little there, all in all, I’ve met the rest of the worldwide team that is unwilling to let species disappear. 

 

What resulted?

Loads of support, both moral and economical, new partnerships, strengthen the partnerships already in place, and FRIENDSHIP. For example, with Corrin, we had great connection and seemed to be on the same page from the get go. We got involved in her project of the Primate Connections Calendar, and collaborated two years in a row and have reached thousands of people with not just our work but the work of many other organizations that thrive in the pursuit of primate conservation.  

 

What is your favorite ZACC memory? (use back of paper)

That one moment of realization of seeing a room full of people that have the same struggles, the same issues but the same conviction and power to move forward in conservation and saying “I am not alone, this is an army, WE CAN WIN”.