A RARE Opportunity

Okay, first let me explain I’m not a zoo keeper. Sorry but I don’t have any first hand, behind-the-scenes, really good inside stuff.  The only recommendation I can give for you to read further is that I’ve worked at the Zoo for a very…very long time. So long that it’s gotten to be totally uncomfortable when someone asks me how long. It’s like being asked how old I am. When I do tell people,  the response is either a quiet and respectful “wow” or an overly loud, totally disrespectful “good grief, how freaking old are you?”.

Anyway I’ve been around long enough to know how much wildlife conservation means to all of us at the Zoo.  Back in 1985 (yes—the last century), two really nice men, John Boyles and Dick Faber of Mr. Fables restaurants helped us start the John Ball Zoo Society Wildlife Conservation Fund.  That donation made it possible for us to be one of the first small zoos in the country to start investing in wildlife conservation ….in the wild. Since then we’ve helped support or totally support over 140 projects in 47 countries and 24 states. We’ve helped 26 projects in Michigan alone.

That fund, that ability to give 4 or 5 small grants every year, added a whole different layer to what we were already doing at the Zoo. From Afghanistan to Zimbabwe there are people who know and appreciate John Ball Zoo because their own work wouldn’t have happened without our help.  A little bit of money can go a long way in a third world country. We once paid to rebuild a chimp orphanage in Liberia  destroyed by rebel forces and pay the staff for a year with a grant of $1500. Amazing!

At first we only received a handful of applications but word spread and now we get 100+ requests every year.   The Fund now depends on the Footsteps sponsorships in order to continue giving these small grants.    That’s why I am so excited about R.A.R.E.-Really Awesome, Really Endangered. This promotion kicks off on July 16 and for the next 65 days  celebrates  a different endangered or vulnerable species every day.  All of those animals are either in our collection or have been helped through our conservation fund.

We want the whole community to know more about these fantastic creatures, the work we do to help here at the Zoo and the work the Fund helps others do around the world.  Every day there will be fun facts and amazing information on the website, Facebook, and Twitter and some of those days will have crafts, programs, contests and more.  The finale will be “An Evening With Joel Sartore”. Joel is a National Geographic photographer, author, and regular contributor to CBS Sunday morning.  Joel’s own Photo Ark project is doing much to help support wildlife conservation. Check out his website at www.joelsartore.com. His presentation here will help us rebuild our own Conservation Fund.  Tickets for “An Evening With Joel Sartore” are $50 or $65 (includes a copy of his book RARE-Portraits of America’s Endangered Species).

We hope you get involved in R.A.R.E.  Post your favorite photos of endangered animals from the Zoo.  Visit the Zoo and enjoy the activities, ask questions, pass the word, e-mail the fun facts to your friends, give a Footsteps sponsorship to a school classroom, buy a ticket to see Joel, and help us celebrate the beauty   of all these magnificent animals and all the people who work to protect them. It’s a R.A.R.E. opportunity to celebrate and make a difference.


About Brenda Stringer

author photo

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. 

view full bio


No one has commented yet, you could be the first!

Leave a Comment