By Ray Pawley
Special to the Daily Record
Following a decade of employment and consulting in the private sector — including owning a zoo — Ray Pawley managed animal collections (particularly reptiles) at Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo and Brookfield Zoo for more than 30 years. Pawley continues to be actively involved with zoos as a wildlife behavior researcher and as a consultant writer/producer for the media, including being a periodic wildlife mini-series producer for KENW-TV, Eastern New Mexico University, Portales.
The first parts of The “Zoo Beyond” articles were published in the Roswell Daily Record Vision section, Oct. 6, Nov. 3, Dec. 29 and Jan. 19. Today we continue the chapter on how to attract animal “volunteers” for the Zoo Beyond and its challenges.
As a Zoo Beyond bird recruitment program takes shape, observations by staffers on both the invited species and on the public are essential in order to better understand the motivations of both. Learning how to curb unacceptable behavior — whether it be people attempting to frighten the animals or nesting Canadian Geese chasing away visitors — is part of the challenge.
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Interactions between humans and non-humans will be myriad and continually evolving. A wind-sock as a navigation aid can — properly located — be a useful approach aid for larger birds such as vultures and cranes, much as for aircraft landing at an airport. To promote trust, a large glass panel to maintain separation of the public and turkey vultures would provide close-up viewing of these graceful but wary birds as they descend in great vortices to land near their food only a few feet away from visitors.
Water provides a wide assortment of opportunities. Properly designed, a large, vertical naturalistic rock-wall with a thin sheet of water rivulets flowing over it would keep many kinds of lizards content, with some occasional avian visitors, as well. At the point where the falling water abruptly goes horizontal, a shallow stream harboring small minnows would attract a wide variety of wading birds such as Great Blue Heron, often with an egret tag-along.
Stealth combined with a lightning strike of a long, sharp beak would reward the heron (and the observing public) as it snatches its meal while the egret would quickly catch up a smaller fish or two.
For young visitors and their families, the passive act of lying on a bench next to the glass of a large, submerged crocodilian makes for memorable selfies. For more action, tossing food to large fish such as channel catfish or carp would result in a loud splash as they break the water’s surface.
The varied assortment of bird species that can be attracted to a Zoo Beyond would be enormous and could include falcons, hawks and vultures, wading birds, waterfowl, certain game birds, doves, hummingbirds, kingfishers and woodpeckers.
Additionally, there are over 25 families of perching birds (Passerines) such as finches, warblers, thrushes, jays, wrens and swallows. In all, well over 100 species of all sizes and kinds could be Zoo Beyond participants at almost any location.
Among the volunteer bird species, problems will very likely arise. For example, some may become overly numerous requiring some rebalancing of numbers. An influx of white-winged doves could overwhelm feeding opportunities for the smaller mourning doves. One solution is to modify the feeding structures to enable simple changes such as food partitioning to benefit both species.
Rules are rules and proper visitor conduct will need to be reinforced, but with as few reminders as possible. The same situation must apply to non-human visitors. Measures need to be taken when necessary to prevent property damage to visitor vehicles or injury to others, including visiting humans.
The article “Rethinking our zoos: The ‘Zoo Beyond’ concept” was first published by Zoo Grapevine & International Zoo News, July 2019. The magazine gave the consent to reprint the story in the Vision section of the Daily Record. Zoo Grapevine & International Zoo News is the public media outlet of the Independent Zoo Enthusiasts Society, based in the United Kingdom. For more information, visit izes.co.uk or contact them at P.O. Box 4, Todmorden, Lancashire OL14 6DA, United Kingdom.