Zoo Boise Works on Plan for Environmental Education

Ten Northwest zoos and aquariums have formed an alliance designed to help folks make smart choices that could protect species found in the Northwest.

BOISE — Did you get any pet fish for Christmas?

Do you know where they came from?

In some cases, fish are captured by squirting cyanide into coral. The fish zoom away only to be caught.

The coral dies of poisoning.

The folks at Zoo Boise would like you to know these and other facts about the world's species and the environment in hopes of helping you make smarter choices about everything from what pets you buy to whether you leave the water running while brushing your teeth and deplete water that benefits wildlife habitat.


Zoo Boise has joined together with nine other Northwest zoos and aquariums to form the Northwest Conservation Alliance, which is designed to help folks make smart choices that could protect species found in the Northwest.

The 10 zoos and aquariums get more than five million visitors a year, said Steve Burns, Zoo Boise director. That provides an opportunity to "teach them how to take conservation action."

Coalition members haven't worked out their exact program, which is expected to roll out next year, but there are plenty of examples of zoos and aquariums around the country that provide ideas to make it happen.

The Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, for example, provides visitors with a list of the best fish to eat -- those that are in abundant supply or farmed in ways that sustain the species.

Among the ideas Zoo Boise is mulling over is giving residents ways to improve backyard habitat -- not just on a yard-by-yard basis, but for entire blocks or neighborhoods.

"What kind of plants should you plant," said Kristin L. Vehrs, interim executive director of the American Zoo and Aquarium Association who was visiting Zoo Boise last week.

The zoos also may look at water conservation, advising folks on how to be careful with a drop of water and perhaps challenge the visitors to all the zoos to conserve a billion gallons of water.

The goal, said Burns, is to create programs for home, the zoo and throughout the Northwest.

Zoo Boise already has some programs in place. It upgraded energy conservation measures and cut more than 25 percent of its $46,000 annual power bill.

The zoo also has a program for introducing ground squirrels into Idaho habitat. In four seasons, they've placed 25 animals in the wild.

The coalition program is meant to show that zoos and people can make a difference, said Vehrs, whose association accredits 210 zoos and aquariums across the country. It shows that even smaller zoos, like Zoo Boise "can take a roll in conservation," Vehrs said.

-- High Desert Museum, Bend, Ore.
-- Northwest Trek Wildlife Park, Eastonville, Wash.
-- Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium, Tacoma, Wash.
-- Oregon Coast Aquarium, Newport, Ore.
-- Oregon Zoo, Portland,
-- Seattle Aquarium, Seattle
-- Vancouver Aquarium, Vancouver, British Columbia
-- Wildlife Safari, Winston, Ore.
-- Woodland Park Zoo, Seattle

Source: Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News

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