Make a Difference at the Zoo

Saturday, October 22 is National Make a Difference Day and we’re celebrating with our incredible volunteer corps at the Detroit Zoo. From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., guests can take part in a scavenger hunt as well as family-friendly hands-on activities to celebrate how volunteers make a difference at the Zoo.

Make a Difference for Birds

Guests can cut out window decals that help to prevent bird strikes, which kill millions of birds in the U.S. every year. One can be taken home and one will be left for use at the Zoo (while supplies last). Information will be available on other ways to help birds using items such as window tape, screens and paint.

Make a Difference for the Planet

Recycled T-shirts will be available for guests to turn into tote bags. Leftover millage signs (the ones with the cute animal faces) will be available to turn into journal covers, bulletin boards and other creative uses guests can find for them (while supplies last). Recycling plastic materials such as these signs helps keep them from winding up in landfills where they don’t disintegrate.

Volunteer Scavenger Hunt

Upon arriving at the Zoo, guests will be offered to take a “discovery tour”. This tour will direct visitors to locations around the Zoo where they will meet volunteers on duty and learn about what they do. Guests who complete the tour, fill out a form and turn it in at the Ford Education Center will be entered into a drawing for two tickets to Wild Lights – six winners will be drawn at 2 p.m. Guests will also receive a token item for participating. Guests who chose to do so may also include their email address on their scavenger hunt form in order to receive more information about either the teen or adult volunteer programs for Spring 2017. Volunteer Services staff will be on hand to collect the scavenger hunt forms and talk more about volunteer opportunities at the Zoo.

We hope you join us and learn more about our fabulous volunteers and how you too can make a difference! Also taking place this day is our encore Smashing Pumpkins event, when animals including the chimpanzees, polar bears, giraffes and “grizzly boys” are given Halloween goodies to eat, play with, roll around and smash. Learn more and view the schedule here.

Animal Welfare: Preventing Bird Strikes

Stephanie Allard, Ph.D., is the director of animal welfare for the Detroit Zoological Society and oversees the Center for Zoo Animal Welfare.

Getting to see nature up close and personal Photo by Patti Truesdellis amazing – especially birds, which many of us are able to do from the comfort of our homes. I love to bird watch, and I have bird feeders at my house, as I’m sure many of you do. I enjoy seeing birds as they fly around, forage for food, interact with each other, and raise their young. We have bird feeders at the Detroit Zoo and Belle Isle Nature Zoo as well, which attract many airborne visitors.

We have to be vigilant, however, because we want to protect these incredible species as we invite them to join us in our outdoor spaces. Millions of birds are killed each year in the U.S. alone because of structures that are built by humans, and among the main culprits are windows. They let in light and they provide us with views, but they also confuse birds and create a very dangerous situation.

Humans and birds have very different visual systems, and what appears to us like a see-through barrier does not look that way to birds. The glass appears invisible to them and often acts as a reflective mirror. Because they can’t see the glass, birds will often fly into a window. This is a deadly phenomenon known as “bird strike”.

Photo by Patti TruesdellWindows are not a new threat for birds; however, this serious animal welfare and conservation issue does not get as much attention as it should. There are programs designed to bring attention to bird strikes and reduce the impact on birds, including the Lights Out program. There are also individuals who have devoted their careers and lives to the issue, such as Dr. Daniel Klem Jr., an ornithology professor from Muhlenberg College who spoke about his decades of work on this topic at the third International Symposium on Animal Welfare hosted by the Detroit Zoological Society and our Center for Zoo Animal Welfare in November of 2014.

The great news is that there are things we Photo by Jennie Millercan all do to help prevent birds from suffering. We can put up bird silhouettes on our windows (you will see many on the windows throughout the Zoo), or reflective tape. There is even special film and glass that can be installed that takes advantage of the fact that birds see in the ultraviolet range so that windows that seem clear to us are now seen by birds as real barriers. Photo by Jennie MillerIf you have bird feeders, don’t put them further away from your windows than 3 feet. This means that birds can come enjoy the food, but won’t gain enough momentum to harm themselves if they take off towards any windows. Use your blinds if you have them – this also lets birds know that they can’t fly through.

We truly have the ability to make a difference in the lives of individual birds that share the world with us, and in turn, help protect their species.

– Dr. Stephanie Allard