Our world could not survive without pollinators, and yet many butterflies, bees, bats, and birds are fighting for their survival. Pollinators are responsible for one out of three bites of food we take each day, according to the National Pollinator Garden Network. Without them, there would be no fruits, nuts, vegetables, oils, or most flowers, and they contribute more than $24 billion to the United States economy. However, recent reports estimate nearly 40% of all animal and plant species and over 40% of insects are threatened with extinction.
This week is Pollinator Week, a chance for us to raise awareness about the importance of pollinators and celebrate the work our aquariums and zoos do to save these species from extinction.
The Association of Zoos and Aquariums is an official partner of the National Pollinator Garden Network, the largest pollinator conservation effort to engage the environmental, horticultural and volunteer sectors to restore and connect essential habitat. Our members have promoted the Network and have registered gardens to support the Network’s Million Pollinator Garden Challenge, in which approximately 8 million people planted and registered 1,040,000 pollinator gardens across North America over the last three years.
AZA members have been important players in this work. Between 2016 and 2018, more than thirty AZA-accredited facilities contributed nearly $1.8 million to protect and promote pollinators and their landscape, most commonly bees, butterflies, bats, and hummingbirds.
AZA members are finding creative, unique ways to celebrate Pollinator Week 2019. Colorado’s Butterfly Pavilion hosted Bee Movie and an evening of arts and crafts, guided nature walks, a ladybug release and more, sponsored by Rice’s Honey. These activities support PACE, a global initiative to increase awareness of pollinators through public engagement, education and restoration/conservation programs and to inform consumers about the importance of pollination. Sophia M Sach’s Butterfly House dedicated the entire month of June to the Picture Perfect Pollinators Campaign, and encouraged visitors to capture snapshots of butterflies, birds, bees and other pollinators in their own backyards, neighborhoods or favorite locales and share their photos. Many other facilities have developed exhibits, held events, prepared special exhibits, and organized pollinator plantings to support insects, birds, and bats.
Planting a pollinator garden is an easy, accessible way for anyone to engage in pollinator conservation. AZA members have taken wildlife gardening efforts beyond their facilities and into their communities. For example, Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo is one of many certified by the National Wildlife Federation, and is encouraging guests to create and certify their backyard habitats, as well. Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden launched a Plant for Pollinators Challenge on March 1 to register 500 gardens, and, after blowing past that target, is well on their way to meeting a new 1000 garden challenge!
This year, many facilities hosted pollinator-planting events during Party for the Planet: Spring into Action. Within the last two months, AZA-accredited facilities planted over 3,000 pollinator-friendly plants and engaged nearly a hundred volunteers. And throughout the season, the Blank Park Zoo’s Zoo Park Partnership for America's Keystone Wildlife will partner with the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge to support the Refuge’s prairie habitats.
Thank you to all of those AZA members celebrating Pollinator Week and making a difference for pollinators this season and a special thank you to the following members that supported the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge: