Call of the wild

Call of the wild

Cheetahs are one endangered species visitors can see during the Roger Williams Park Zoo’s Endangered Species Day: Art and Animals on Saturday, May 18, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Roger Williams Park hosts Endangered Species Day

PROVIDENCE – Approximately one million species are threatened with extinction, according to a UN report released last week, and officials at Roger Williams Park Zoo say they hope to spread awareness about the issue as they host a day of art and education about endangered species on Saturday, May 18. 

The event, called Endangered Species Day: Art and Animals, takes place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the zoo, 1000 Elmwood Ave. in Providence. 

“The message that we want to get out is that we all have a role in this,” Tim French, deputy director of animal programs at the zoo, told The Valley Breeze. “Whether you’re out working to save endangered species in the field or just in the day-to-day choices you make … The more we can make responsible and considerate choices, the better it will be for everybody.” 

According to the UN report, many of the endangered animal and plant species could be extinct within decades and the numbers are “more than ever before in human history.” 

More than 40 percent of amphibian species, almost 33 percent of reef-forming corals and more than one-third of all marine mammals are threatened, the report states.  
Artwork and photographs of wildlife from 12 to 15 artists from Rhode Island and across New England, including some from the New England Watercolor Society, will be exhibited around the zoo. 

Also that day, zookeepers will be available to speak with visitors about the endangered animals, including actions people can take to help them survive. 

There are more than 30 threatened or endangered species at the zoo, including white-cheeked gibbons, Matschie’s tree kangaroo, a red wolf, snow leopards, giant river otters, red-crowned crane, cheetahs, and African elephants. 

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, endangered species are “in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range,” while threatened species are “likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range.” 

The U.S. is considering adding giraffes, whose populations have dropped significantly, to the endangered species list, French said. 

Guests visiting the zoo will find artists stationed in front of different exhibits drawing, sketching, and painting the threatened and endangered species “to bring awareness to the animals,” Beth Pincince, special events and promotions manager at the zoo, told The Breeze.   

“There will be some beautiful photography on display,” she said.   

The event is new this year and was inspired by the 2nd annual Endangered Species Youth Art Contest hosted by the zoo and sponsored by Jerry’s Artarama, an art supply store in Providence, Pincince said. 

More than 220 local students submitted artwork of endangered species. The winners’ framed pieces will be displayed in the zoo’s Hasbro’s Our Big Backyard. 

“This is our first time doing the (event),” Pincince said. “We’re hoping that if it’s successful, next year we can build on that and expand a little bit more.” 

Talking with the zookeepers, people can learn about the major factors that lead a species to become endangered, including habitat loss or destruction and climate change, French said.  

When animals’ habitats become fragmented (when people clear land to build a highway, for example), they are put at risk and their populations keep shrinking, French said. 

Some animals, including African elephants and rhinoceroses, have been over-hunted by poachers, he said. Bald eagles “suffered for a long time” due to poisoning from DDT in the environment, which “affected their ability to lay healthy eggs,” he said. 

Extinction and the threat of extinction has a chain effect, French said. If a prey species’ numbers go down, predators who rely on that prey for sustenance start to experience decreasing populations, too.  

“There are lots of pressures on all sorts of animal populations,” French said. “There are lots of different ways that we create problems for other species.” 
Climate change affects animals “the same as it does us,” he said. 

Rising sea levels and melting ice has harmed polar bears by decreasing their opportunity to hunt seals, leading to death or diminished reproductive success, he said. 

“Here at the zoo, we want to do everything we can to slow the degradation of the environment that we live in,” French said. “Not just slow the loss of valuable species, but in many cases turn that loss around and help regrow healthy populations.” 

The repercussions eventually impact humans, too, he said. 

The best ways to help these species is to “try to be a little more conscious of the things we do,” French said. 

“We want to get people to think about their own day-to-day actions to minimize the pressures they put on the environment,” he said. “People come to the zoo because they really enjoy the animals. We want to remind them that what we do has real impacts on … the animals.” 

He suggests reducing, reusing, recycling, taking shorter showers, driving more efficient vehicles, using public transportation, creating less trash, and making other small changes to daily routines. 

“Be less wasteful with what’s available to us,” he said. “We’re losing species. Once they’re gone, they’re gone.”

A rain date for Endangered Species Day will be held on Sunday, May 19, at the same time. Activities are free with zoo admission.  

For more information, visit www.rwpzoo.org .

The red wolf is one endangered species visitors can see during the Roger Williams Park Zoo’s Endangered Species Day: Art and Animals on Saturday, May 18, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.