In attempts to contribute to the global animal conservation effort, The Smithsonian National Zoological Park is using different programs and routines to help assist endangered species.
“A lot of [people] don’t realize that the United States is home to a lot of endangered species and that we have some pretty interesting animals in our own backyards,” Reptile Discovery Centers Animal Keeper Matt Neff said. “Being aware of your carbon footprint can help and there are definitely small things anyone can do to help the environment.”
Founded in 1889, the Smithsonian National Zoological Park was created to give animals a place to thrive after being moved to a new habitat across the country.
“Pandas used to be an endangered species however now, they are just listed as vulnerable,” Neff said. “Programs that we use like breeding programs and our Global Health Program help some of our animals go back into the wild.”
Similar to the Smithsonian, other local conservation programs have been created in an effort to revert habitats back to their original state.
Established in 1990, The Desert Conservation Program has acknowledged the importance of educating the society of endangered species and how to protect, respect and enjoy the desert. The program has even introduced mascot Mojave Max, a desert tortoise passionate about protecting local environments.
Due to human development in their natural environment, desert tortoise populations have significantly decreased in the Mojave Desert. In 1989, the government granted the tortoises federal protection.
“I’ve lived in Las Vegas my whole life and when I was young, I would hear about different endangered species around the world but they would always put an emphasis on the desert tortoise because they are in our backyard,” senior Valentina Castillo said.
“I usually use a Hydro flask and recycle anything that I can,” Castillo said. “I know this doesn’t directly affect the tortoises, but I know it can help our environment and other factors. When it comes to endangered animals, it is a sad thing to hear about so it makes me feel empowered when I know I am doing something to help save them.”
Although it is crucial to recognize the importance of all species, it is difficult to be of aid to every single one. Starting at a local scale can help the animals in your community.
“There are a lot of issues that happen on a larger scale that we can’t really control but there are definitely a few things that you can do to help the environment,” Neff said. “For tortoises in particular, we should stay aware of the habitat that these animals call their home by having trash pickups and not littering.”