Did you know there’s a Party for the Planet happening? From Earth Day to World Oceans Day, Association of Zoos and Aquariums members and partners are inviting you to promote, protect, and enhance healthy habitats in your yard or garden. Join us as we spring into action with simple steps to save animals from extinction and help pollinators thrive.
Did you know monarch butterflies and migratory songbirds travel thousands of miles every year? They make several stops along their journey in parks and maybe even in your backyard. Stopover areas are critical for their survival to rest, restore energy, and find shelter. You can help them on their journey by providing water, food, and nesting places as they migrate to their northern nesting grounds.
No one likes to see their community littered with trash, especially plastic. Sometimes wildlife can’t tell the difference between plastic and food. They can also get tangled up in litter. You can act in a variety of ways! Start by safely picking up litter in your community using gloves and tongs. Dispose of your trash in bins and properly recycle to keep habitats healthy. Do more to keep plastics out of habitats by choosing reusable instead of single-use items like straws, bags, and containers.
Pollinators are essential for our agricultural systems; the growth of our food sources depends on pollination. Choosing native plants in your gardens and going pesticide-free creates safer, healthier habitats for monarchs, birds, and other pollinators. By protecting them, you are also protecting the food that we eat.
Show even more love for pollinators, and save time, by not mowing. Taller grasses create a lush habitat for pollinators, not to mention it saves you time, money, and conserves fuel. Not ready to stop mowing everywhere? Choose a section to let grow and watch as a family for new visitors to your yard.
Many plants have been transplanted from areas around the world into our communities. Although these plants may be aesthetically pleasing to look at, many bloom before native plants, shading them from sunlight and taking the soil nutrients native plants need to grow. These non-native, or invasive, plants are not natural food sources for wildlife and provide little to no fuel for them to continue on their journey. When removing invasive plant species, you are allowing native plants to grow, providing more food and shelter for birds and other pollinators that visit and live in your community.
Now is the perfect opportunity to spend time in your yard, no matter its size. By watching the wildlife around you, you can start to see how they look for food, care for their young, communicate with other wildlife, and enjoy nature just like us. You can help scientists learn more about songbirds and how to best protect them by participating in projects like the Great Backyard Bird Count, Christmas Bird Count, and City Nature Challenge. You can also be a monarch community scientist and advocate. Help scientists who study monarchs throughout their lifecycle by collecting data across life stages - from caterpillar to adult butterfly, and even on the milkweed that feeds them.
Now that you know ways to protect and create healthy habitats right in your yard or garden, are you ready to take action for wildlife? Share your story to inspire others! Snap a photo and post on social media of you and your family working to protect, enhance, or restore habitats for wildlife in your backyard or community. Use and follow the hashtags #PartyForThePlanet and #EarthRise.
Learn more about actions AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums are taking to help save animals from extinction.
Photo Credit: © Carmen Rucker, Audubon Nature Institute
Amy Rutherford is the Director of Professional Development and Education at AZA.
Heidi Faris is the Connecting to Nature Coordinator at AZA.