In June, Binder Park Zoo submitted a grant proposal to the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs (MCACA) for funding to create a new Mexican gray wolf exhibit at the zoo. An additional grant application was also made requesting support for general zoo operations for 2020. Binder Park Zoo was one of 561 applicants to compete for the MCACA fiscal year 2020 funding, and on Friday, October 18, Binder Park Zoo was awarded $50,000 for capital improvements for the Mexican gray wolf exhibit and $15,000 for operations.
“We are honored and grateful to receive these awards from the MCACA” states Diane Thompson, President & CEO of the zoo, “ they allow us to not only enhance the overall guest experience but make improvements that positively impacts our mission of conservation here at the zoo. Our mission to ’Connect. Inspire Conserve. Connect people with nature and inspire them to conserve.’ will be well served.” Thompson said.
The Mexican gray wolf exhibit will move from its current location; near the Binda Conservation Carousel, to an area east of the Barnum Creek that will focus on North American animal species. The current exhibit has a lookout deck where the wolves are viewed by guests from above – no longer considered best zoological practice. The new habitat will include a viewing area that respects the needs of the species and meets best practice where guest can observe the wolves at ground level; along with educational space to share conservation messages and general information about the wolves. Binder Park Zoo has been an active participant in the Mexican gray wolf Species Survival Plan (SSP) for nearly thirty years upon receiving an initial breeding pair of wolves in 1992. Mexican gray wolves, also referred to as “Lobo” are the most critically endangered subspecies of the gray wolf and one of the rarest animals with approximately 350 left in the world. In 2018, a mere 114 Mexican gray wolves were counted in the wild. On March 29, 1998, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services released a Mexican gray wolf named “Dark Eyes,” a female wolf born at Binder Park Zoo, into the Apache National Forest in eastern Arizona. Dark Eyes was the first Mexican gray wolf to give birth to pups in the wild in over 50 years. In June 2019, four Mexican gray wolf pups were born to a first-time breeding pair named Flynn and Izzy. Sadly, one pup passed away early of pneumonia and then later, two others died of Eastern equine encephalitis – a highly and unusually rare occurrence in a canid species.
“This tragic incident was heartbreaking not just for zoo staff, but it also struck a serious blow to the conservation efforts for this species,” says Brett Linsley, Manager of Wildlife, Conservation and Education at the zoo. Linsley continued “The new exhibit will not only provide a larger, more suitable habitat for the wolves to thrive in, but will help us redouble our efforts towards the breeding of these animals with the goal of future releases back into the wild.”
The mission of the MCACA is “to encourage, initiate and facilitate an enriched artistic, cultural and creative environment in Michigan”. Binder Park Zoo contributes to the region’s art and culture sector and is recognized as a leading cultural attraction in Michigan.
The MCACA peer review process allows for each grant application to be competitively considered by a panel of both in-state and out-of-state arts and culture professionals. This ensures that the taxpayers, who support this project through legislative appropriations, and visitors, together with the residents of Michigan will have access to the highest quality arts and cultural experiences.
A complete list of grant awards around the state is available by contacting MCACA at (517) 241-4011, or by visiting the MCACA website at www.michigan.gov/arts
Binder Park Zoo is located in southwest Michigan and home to a diverse array of exotic and native animal species. The natural and spacious habitat design that blends animal habitats into the surrounding landscape is a 40-year hallmark of the zoo that respects animals and delights guests. Delivering the message of conservation through engaging programs and fun experiences lies at the heart of the zoo’s mission to Connect. Inspire. Conserve. Connect people with nature. Inspire them to conserve. The Conservation Carousel, vintage Z.O. & O. miniature train and trip to the 50-acre Wild Africa exhibit aboard the Wilderness Tram are but several zoo adventures that entertain while making meaningful connections to nature. 2019 Annual sponsors of Binder Park Zoo are AIM Asphalt and Calhoun County Visitors Bureau.