The El Paso Zoo will be piloting a Zoo-Park Partnership with for America’s Keystone Wildlife with Big Bend National Park to coordinate efforts to conserve wildlife.
“The natural recolonization of the black bear to Big Bend National Park from the cross border population in northern Mexico is one of the most important conservation stories in Texas,” said El Paso Zoo Education Curator Rick LoBello. “I was very fortunate to help document and launch current conservation efforts in Big Bend when I worked there many years ago.”
“Big Bend National Park has incredible diversity, including its wildlife. And the story of black bears in the park is unique among National Parks as it was the first of its kind of wildlife recolonizing a park area,” said park Resource Management Chief David Larson. “Bears are important to the ecology of the park, and we look forward to furthering their story and conservation.”
The zoo successfully worked with Big Bend National Park to create the Black Bear Habitat Improvement in Big Bend National Park Project to apply for the grant.
The project focuses on three components: (1) remove non-native invasive vegetation, (2) place food storage boxes in backcountry, and (3) bear-proof power poles in park.
This winter, the zoo will send a group of “citizen steward” volunteers and staff to work in the park to help complete the project.
Funding was made possible for this partnership when the El Paso Zoo and Big Bend National Park were awarded the $10,000 Winter 2018 America’s Keystone Wildlife Project Grant (AKW) from the Association of Zoos & Aquariums.
The Project partners zoos with National Parks and National Wildlife Refuges to help America recover the wildlife legacy lost during the fur trade and westward expansion era of the United States, and was founded by Julie Anton Randall, Project Leader.
The El Paso Zoo is among a small inaugural group of accredited zoos selected that meet certain criteria, including AKW Field Conservation, Reciprocal AKW Interpretation, and AKW Citizen Stewardship engaging communities in ensuring park sustainability.