It is with great sadness that Binder Park Zoo announces the death of their last remaining Mexican gray wolf. Phoenix, a 14 year old endangered Mexican wolf, was humanely euthanized on September 19, 2016, due to deteriorating health issues relating to his advanced age. The median life expectancy of a Mexican wolf is 11 years. Phoenix was part of a group of eight wolf pups born at the Zoo in 2002. The four females went on to live at other accredited facilities, while the males lived out their lives at Binder Park Zoo. The Zoo expects to be home to more wolves in the future.
Binder Park Zoo has participated in the Mexican Gray Wolf Species Survival Plan (SSP) for over 20 years. In 1998 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) released a female wolf born at Binder Park Zoo into the wild. This was a very significant conservation accomplishment as this was the first Mexican wolf ever to give birth to pups in the wild in over 50 years! Managed through the USFWS and The Association of Zoos and Aquarium (AZA), the SSP monitors the Mexican wolf population and works to build a healthy and viable captive population of wolves. Once almost completely eradicated from the wild, the Mexican Gray Wolf SSP is helping to bring this keystone species back from the brink of extinction.
While the Zoo mourns the loss of their Mexican wolves, their ongoing legacy gives hope. Through research conducted at the St. Louis Zoo in conjunction with AZA, USFWS and the Mexican Gray Wolf SSP, the wolves born at Binder Park Zoo could one day, long after their deaths, contribute to the Mexican wolf population. DNA collection is one way conservationists work to protect this species far into the future. Semen samples taken from the three male wolves previously at Binder Park Zoo and many other wolves around the United States are stored in a cryogenic genome bank or “frozen ark”. This viable, genetic gene pool helps to sustain the Mexican wolf population and carry on the lineage of the Mexican gray wolf.
Mexican wolves are the most highly endangered subspecies of gray wolf and one of the rarest animals with only about 350 left in the world and only 50 living in the wild. Once common in the Southwest United States and Northern Mexico, they were nearly eliminated by ranchers who feared that the wolves were a threat to cattle. The extermination effort nearly succeeded, but a few Mexican wolves survived in captivity and in remote areas of Mexico. From these few survivors, a captive SSP breeding program began in 1979 with the eventual goal of reestablishing Mexican wolves in the wild. While much effort is underway to protect this species, their fight for survival is not over. With 48 facilities working to manage this population and others in the field, there is hope that the Mexican wolf will have a great success story like that of the bald eagle.
About Binder Park Zoo
Over 8,000,000 people have visited Binder Park Zoo and an additional 500,000 have been served through outreach programs since the Zoo was established in 1975. It is located outside of Battle Creek, Michigan, on 433 acres of natural forests and wetlands. In the past 41 years, the Zoo has grown to be one of the leading cultural attractions in the region. It was created on the model of an entrepreneurial self-supporting nonprofit organization, and is managed by a zoological society board of directors to Connect. Inspire. Conserve. Connect people with nature. Inspire them to conserve. In the last twenty years a conservation education center, a 40-acre natural wetlands exhibit, the 50-acre Wild Africa exhibit, and Conservation Carousel have been added to the original 80-acre zoo. Binder Park Zoo is heavily involved in conservation of wildlife and natural habitats on five continents. In cooperation with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and others, Binder Park Zoo is actively working to conserve a wide array of endangered species both at the Zoo and worldwide.