Love Connection: Saving species through matchmaking

"Matchmaker, Matchmaker, make me a match, find me a find, catch me a catch." For humans, finding Mr. or Mrs. Right has evolved from little black books to online dating sites, but what about finding that perfect mate in the animal world?

For AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums) accredited facilities, Species Survival Plans (SSP) determine animal matchmaking. The program was created to help ensure the survival of selected endangered or threatened species.

"SSPs utilize databases that contain information on all of the animals in AZA zoos and aquariums," said General Curator Lisa Laskoski. "This includes each animal’s entire demographic history and family lineage." The data is critical to pairing animals in order to maintain healthy, genetically diverse, self-sustaining populations, not only for today, but also well into the future.

Alexandria Zoo participates in over 50 Species Survival Plan programs for animals ranging from a 400-gram Prevost's squirrel to a 450-pound Aldabra tortoise. "When matching animals, the SSP coordinators consider factors such as genetics, logistics, personality, and space availability," said Laskoski. This means participation in these programs does not always equate to a breeding pair of animals. AZA zoos and aquariums also provide spaces for elderly animals or other individuals without breeding recommendations.

In addition to population management, SSPs also participate in a variety of other cooperative conservation activities such as research, public education, reintroduction, and field projects.

AZA accredited zoos and aquariums continue to play an increasing role in wildlife conservation. Through programs such as SSPs, zoos and aquariums are working together to ensure extinction meets its match.

Prevost's squirrel

Squirrel of a different color

Step outside just about anywhere in Louisiana and you're likely to spot a squirrel. However, unlike the gray (Sciurus carolinensis) or fox (Sciurus niger) squirrel, you won't see this one in your backyard.

The Prevost's squirrel (Callosciurus prevostii) is found in the forests, cultivated areas and gardens of Southeast Asia. This species is also called the tri-colored squirrel. Their striking black, white and chestnut red bands of fur make them one of the most colorful squirrels in the world.

The Prevost's squirrel is not endangered, but plantations have replaced much of its native habitat. An easy way to help Prevost’s squirrels and their forest friends is to choose products that are eco-friendly. Making simple changes in our purchasing can go a long way towards conserving resources and animal habitats.

Alexandria Zoo participates in the Prevost's Squirrel Species Survival Plan®. Through programs like SSPs, AZA accredited zoos and aquariums across North America work together to help maintain healthy and self-sustaining populations.

Where is the Prevost's squirrel in the Zoo? Its current temporary home is at the Australian Walkabout.

Want more information on being a sustainable shopper? Check out these apps.

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Parade over to Alexandria Zoo for the Mardi Gras Party

Parade over to Alexandria Zoo for the Mardi Gras Party

The animals are askin' for you at Alexandria Zoo! Don your purple, green and gold and parade over to the Zoo for the Mardi Gras Party Saturday, February 10 from 2 pm – 4 pm.

Sink your teeth into a delicious slice of Atwood’s Bakery king cake, mambo to live music by the LaCour Trio, and visit with costume characters.

Regular Zoo admission. FOTAZ members are free with card and photo ID. Sponsored by Friends of the Alexandria Zoo, Atwood's Bakery, and City of Alexandria.

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Brown pelicans join Alexandria Zoo's flock

Brown pelicans join Alexandria Zoo's flock

Grover, Bert, and Elmo, three juvenile brown pelicans, have moved into the neighborhood. The trio is now at home in the Louisiana Habitat exhibit.

Brown pelicans hunt with spectacular head-first dives. They will fly high up into the air, then fold back their wings and plunge into the water to scoop up fish. The wild born birds all have wing injuries that prevent them from being rehabilitated and returned to the wild.

The brown pelican, Louisiana's state bird, is a conservation success story. The population faced a drastic decline as a result of the extensive use of the pesticide DDT, which is now banned. After nearly forty years, the brown pelican was removed from the endangered species list in 2009.

Zoo staff assists local bird count

Zoo staff members assist local bird count

Conservation is a goal in every action we take at Alexandria Zoo. In a step towards achieving these goals, Alexandria Zoo recently participated in the annual Holiday Bird Count hosted by the Audubon Society.

A team from Alexandria Zoo's animal care staff volunteered their time and skill set to aid local bird watchers. Arriving in the field early in the morning the team was able to spot over 50 unique species throughout the day including hawks, kingfishers, and owls.

"The counts of the species the team saw will be added to the national database and will provide crucial data to conservationist and policy makers for years to come," said Zakary Shafer, Curator of Education. This in turn will aid native birds through habitat restoration and development.

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Open Daily 9 am - 5 pm

Closed only Thanksgiving, Christmas, & New Year's Day

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Alexandria Zoo
3016 Masonic Drive
Alexandria, LA 71301
P: (318) 441-6810