Helping Conservation Around the World

Since 1985, John Ball Zoo has been helping wildlife conservation projects around the world with its Wildlife Conservation Fund. The Fund is financed through donations and monies earned from our Footsteps to the Future animal sponsorship program. The Fund makes it possible for us to award a limited number of small grants to animal conservation programs around the world. Over the past 29 years, 145 grants have been distributed in 46 countries and 24 states, 26 grants in Michigan.  This year we received 108 applications from projects on every continent except Antarctica.  Projects vary in size and scope but each represents dedicated people who put their time, talent and often their own financial resources into saving wildlife and wild places.

Another group puts a ton of time into the work of the Fund. A committee of five (Institutional Advancement Director-me, Director of Education, Animals and Conservation-Andy McIntyre, Zoo Veterinarian-Dr. Ryan Colburn, Zoo Curator-Dan Malone, and one Zoo Keeper-Dave Blaskewicz) reads all the grants, evaluates them, and finally meets together to make a final determination. Selecting the recipients is always exciting and painful. Painful only because the funds we have are limited and the need is great  So many projects go unfunded that are certainly worthy and it always hurts not to be able to help even more.

This year’s grants all allow our funds to go a long way in helping to protect and preserve not just wildlife and habitats but quite often the people who need to co-exist and prosper along with them. The recipients are listed below.

Identifying South African Cavity Nesters Most Vulnerable to the Loss of Large Trees

Many birds like rollers, hornbills, and hoopoes build their nests in holes or cavities pre-existing in trees which are usually  the larger, more mature trees that are more likely to be logged.  The project will provide results and recommendations to the scientific community, government agencies, and NGO’s tasked with implementing land use policies in sensitive semi-arid landscapes vulnerable to tree removal.  Principal Investigator-Dr. Mark Stanback, Davidson College

Reducing Freshwater Turtle Deaths from Fishing Entanglement in India by Developing Alternative Fishing Methods

India is one of the world’s hot spots for chelonian diversity, however, many turtles getting caught and drown in villagers’ fishing nets which are typically monofilament gill. This project aims to help reduce turtle  mortality by: (1) identifying alternative types of  nets that will reduce turtle by catch but are equally effective at capturing fish, (2) obtaining such nets by working with net manufacturers in the United States, and (3) working with Turtle Survival Alliance to deploy the nets and monitor their success. Principal Investigator: Dr. Shailendra Singh, National Resources Defense Council

Increasing Local Awareness About the Ecological Importance of Gishwati Forest Reserve, Rwanda

Gishwati Forest Reserve (GFR) is a natural forest located in western part of Rwanda. This forest shelters endangered primates and plays a major role in provisioning other ecosystem services including fresh water in the region.  Forest of Hope Association (FHA) is a local NGO whose objective is to increase local awareness about the ecological importance of Gishwati Forest Reserve.  To implement this project, they will use different techniques including development of education materials   trainings, and awareness campaigns.   Principal Investigator-Thierry Aimable Inzirayineze, Forest of Hope Association

Community Mobilization for Wildlife Rescue-Phase II

        Loss of habitat is one of the major reasons for increasing incidents of human -wildlife conflict resulting in loss of precious wildlife especially leopards in Rajasthan.  The goals of the project are to: generate awareness about wildlife conservation among rural and village youth,  promote formation of Wildlife Clubs in schools, impart   training on human wildlife conflict mitigation and rescue preparedness to Club members and teachers, develop a database of trained members, forest officials, administration and media to work together during rescues, develop Wildlife Clubs as the role model and share its results for further replication for wildlife conservation. Principal Investigator-Manish Saxena, Director-WORLD  

A big thank you to all our Footsteps sponsors who make conservation work not just here but around the world.

About Brenda Stringer

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Brenda started life on a farm in Central Illinois. From gathering eggs and raising pigs, she went on to get a Bachelor’s degree in English from Northern Illinois University and a Master’s degree in Theatre from Illinois State University.  Working at a Zoo just seemed to be the logical next step! Brenda is the Executive Director of the John Ball Zoo Society. 

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