Last month, I finished my two-year term as chair of the Oregon Zoo Foundation. I have been very proud of my association with our beloved Oregon Zoo and the community-led foundation that supports it.
When I first joined the Oregon Zoo Foundation board in 2004, most of my experience with the Oregon Zoo was as a wide-eyed visitor (as a kid) and as a summer concert-goer (as an adult). I still have great appreciation for those activities, but over time, I've come to have a profound affinity for another mission of our zoo — its focus on wildlife conservation and education.
I’ve had the great pleasure to meet and interact with many of the dedicated staff and volunteers who do great work at our zoo. Their behind-the-scenes efforts in animal care and enrichment has made our zoo one of the most respected in the nation — something I’ve learned first-hand by speaking to other zoo leaders throughout the country.
The good works of the zoo family aren’t just confined within the boundaries of Washington Park. Many on the zoo staff are involved with national and international programs that have raised the visibility of the Oregon Zoo and its dedicated staff. Some noteworthy efforts include:
* Chris Pfefferkorn, Oregon Zoo’s deputy director and general curator, has been doing great work to help bring back endangered cheetah and leopard populations in Zimbabwe’s Matobo Hills National Park. While there, Chris has also forged relationships with local organizations who are helping impoverished kids in the area, even bringing them donated soccer equipment and uniforms from Oregon.
* Amy Cutting, a senior zookeeper, is a key player with Polar Bears International, a leading polar bear education and research organization. Amy has become an expert and international spokesperson on the plight of polar bears due to shrinking polar ice caps.
* Asaba Mukobi, also a senior zookeeper, spends time in his native Uganda running the Kasese Wildlife Conservation Awareness Organization, which he founded in 2002. Asaba teaches wildlife education to Ugandan children who, like kids in Oregon, benefit by learning the importance of understanding and respecting the living world around us.
Closer to home, the Oregon Zoo has been directly involved in the conservation efforts of endangered and threatened species such as California Condors, Western Pond Turtles, the Oregon Spotted Frog, the Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbit and the Oregon Silverspot Butterfly.