August 27, 2009

Colorado Zoo Holds Reef Rendezvous Event


By Cheyenne Mountain Zoo Hospital Manager Michelle H. Brown

This summer, the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo (CMZ), located in the Rocky Mountains just above Colorado Springs, Colorado, held a special “Rocky Mountain Reef Rendezvous” action event to educate their guests about reefs.

Michelle H. Brown, the Zoo’s Hospital Manager, had submitted the idea to the Zoo and was given $500 to implement an event that would provide zoo guests with the opportunity to get to know coral reefs better and learn ways that they can help protect them, even while living more than 1,000 miles from the nearest ocean. 

The resulting Rendezvous was held on Father’s Day, June 21, at the zoo’s education loft which had been decorated with an ocean theme for the day.  There were several stations set up that included information from the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Program with Sustainable Seafood Guides to take home, a diving/snorkeling station hosted by local dive shop Diver’s Reef that presented ways to see coral reefs without harming them, a table with brochures, children’s books and other info from Reef Check, a series of computer screens showing videos of different coral reefs throughout the world, and a kid’s station with coral reef related games and pictures to color.  CMZ also donated a “Behind-the-Scenes” tour of the zoo’s exhibits to anyone who donated to Reef Check, and the local chapter of the Association of American Zoo Keepers voted to match the donations collected for Reef Check.

Zoo staff estimated that there were 4,000 visitors that day which offered Michelle, the zoo docents and zoo education staff a multitude of opportunities to talk to people about coral reefs and Reef Check’s work.   Many visitors took an interest in learning how to dive to explore the ocean’s reefs and appreciated the seafood watch guide to buying ocean friendly fish.  Visitors were also glad to see that there was an organization like Reef Check dedicated to the conservation of coral reefs and depleted the on-hand supply of Reef Check brochures.  The Rocky Mountain Reef Rendezvous became an ideal forum by which zoo visitors could become more informed of the status of coral reefs and learn how they too can be a positive force in their protection even while living a mile high up in the Rockies.

Here are a dozen simple things CMZ shared with its guests on how to protect coral reefs and oceans throughout the world:
  1. Conserve Water – the less water you use, the less wastewater finds its way back to the ocean
  2. Recycle and Reuse – keeping trash out of oceans and landfills will improve water quality
  3. Use Environmentally Safe Cleaning and Gardening Products – no matter how far from the ocean you are, the residues will make their way back to the ocean
  4. Don’t Dump Waste in Drains – all eventually lead to rivers that flow to the ocean
  5. Walk, Bike, Carpool or Ride the Bus – fossil fuel emissions from cars contribute to ocean warming causing bleaching of corals which can lead to widespread destruction of coral reefs    
  6. Be a Responsible Seafood Eater – over-fishing, destructive fishing gear and poor aquaculture practices impact significantly on marine wildlife and habitats
  7. Be an Informed Consumer – carefully consider the coral and marine fish you buy to insure that the harvest was legal, sustainable and ecologically sound
  8. Learn More About Coral Reefs and Oceans – when you further your own education, you can help others understand the fragility and value of the world’s reefs and oceans
  9. Support Conservation Organizations – many like Reef Check (have coral reef programs and your monetary or volunteer support will make a difference
  10. Become a Member of Your Local Aquarium or Zoo – ask what they are doing and what your donation can do toward saving the world’s reefs and oceans
  11. Become an Ecotourist – when visiting the oceans and reefs, minimize your impact on these fragile systems by respecting all local guidelines, recommendations, regulations, and customs
  12.  SPREAD THE WORD – be the voice for our coral reefs and encourage others to get involved!