Today Meagan Racey (right) writes about Endangered Species Day at Stone Zoo in Massachusetts. On the left is Catherine Hibbard; both are public affairs specialists in the Northeast Regional office. Credit: USFWS
“How much does this cost?” asked someone, holding up a seized cobra skin belt at our Endangered Species Day booth at Stone Zoo on Saturday.
“It’s not for sale – that was illegally imported into the United States and confiscated by one of our wildlife officers,” I said. My co-worker Catherine Hibbard chimed in, “These items come from rare animals and show the uphill battle that we have to protect wildlife. There’s a demand for items like this.”
All afternoon, we chatted with families about confiscated items (in addition to the cobra belt, we had shoes made from sea turtle, a purse made from a dwarf crocodile, two furs and several other pieces) and the connection between human demand and the exploitation of animals to the point of endangerment or even extinction.
The snow leopard and wolf furs weren’t the only attractions pulling people toward our booth. We set up a small piping plover exhibit with sand, symbolic fencing and eggs, since Stoneham, Mass., is near the coast and beaches where threatened piping plovers nest.
A girl uses the biologist binoculars to look for the piping plover eggs in our exhibit. Biologists and volunteers rope off nesting areas for piping plovers because the birds and eggs are very hard to see. They need protection from disturbance, which can cause birds to abandon the nests. It’s important for people to be aware of these areas and help protect families of this threatened bird. Credit: USFWS
“Do you see the tiny eggs in the sand? We don’t want to bother them so they can hatch,” a mother said to her son. “Now, when you see these signs and rope on the beach, you won’t try to go inside, right?”
Armed with a plover temporary tattoo, he marched over to the snow leopard exhibit with his new knowledge and a “Share the Beach” activity book.
Some of the kids dove into our “Be a Biologist” section. They tried on the wildland firefighter helmet and jacket – and even tried to carry the survival pack. One particularly adventurous boy stepped in to the XXL waders we brought along.
Our goal was for visitors to leave our booth and be able to know the name of one imperiled animal and one way that we protect it.
Whether they explored the confiscated wildlife items, colored or drew endangered species, or learned about piping plover fencing, we hope our visitors walked away with a new bit of information about endangered animals and the need to protect them for our future.
A mother and her child look at the confiscated wildlife items, including a bird-eating tarantula, Triton’s trumpet seashell, elephant ivory necklace, cobra skin belt and men’s green sea turtle shoes. All items were illegally brought into the U.S. Credit: USFWS
Meagan Racey in front of the piping plover exhibit. Credit: USFWS
Jack Regan dove into the waders. He couldn’t walk far but had fun…! Credit: USFWS
Jack Regan also tried on the wildland firefighter suit. Credit: USFWS
Helia Silveira, Ellie O’Donnell, Garrett Silveira and Owen O’Donnell working on a piping plover chick craft. Credit: USFWS
Miranda Breitkopf holding her completed piping plover chick! Credit: USFWS
Allegra Breitkopf holds up her colored “Share the Beach” with shorebirds activity book. Credit: USFWS
Helia Silveira and Ellie O’Donnell work on the piping plover chick craft. Credit: USFWS
Angelo Zelaya dressed up as a wildland firefighter! Credit: USFWS
Catherine Hibbard helps Angelo put on the firefighter helmet. Credit: USFWS
Jayden Christian colors an endangered Karner blue butterfly. Credit: USFWS
Catherine Hibbard applies a piping plover temporary tattoo. Families were encouraged to check out the piping plover sand exhibit. Credit: USFWS
Catherine Hibbard talks with families as they check out the confiscated wildlife items. Credit: USFWS
Hugh Cunningham Speer and his family color endangered species images. Credit: USFWS
Kids were also invited to draw endangered species (or maybe just shapes!) on the ground around our booth. Credit: USFWS