EXCERPT: 'Frenemies for Life' By John Becker

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Animal Ambassadors

Ro and Reh and Reese and Ruth may not look like important diplomats, but they are—as animal ambassadors for cheetah conservation.

Animal Ambassador Programs are a zoo's way of bringing the zoo animals and information to the public. The programs are educational presentations in which zoo staff and/or volunteers take animals out into the community (or onto the zoo grounds) to allow people to see zoo animals "up close and personal." Animal Ambassador Programs are an important way for zoos to educate the public about the role of wildlife in the balance of nature and the critically important need to conserve all of our natural resources.

If you've visited a zoo recently, you've probably seen zoo representatives displaying and talking about different animals—from snakes to elephants. They talk about the creature's physical characteristics, behaviors, geographic range, and threatened or endangered status. Some zoos, including the Columbus Zoo, also present "wildlife shows" that feature animals exhibiting their normal behaviors as zoo staff gives in-depth information about the animals and their natural environment. You also may have been lucky enough to have your local zoo bring some wild animals to visit your school.

For many years, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium has had exceptional success taking animals out to meet the public. "Jungle" Jack Hanna regularly takes animals to shows and events around the country to promote the zoo and wildlife conservation. Ro, Reh, Reese, and Ruth have accompanied Jack to Good Morning America, The Late Show with David Letterman, Larry King Live, On the Record with Gretta VanSusteren, and many other radio and television programs. When Jack visits those programs, he explains the important role they're playing in cheetah conservation, and a huge audience of viewers and listeners learn about the CCF's Livestock Guarding Dog Program.

Suzi Rapp, Director of the Columbus Zoo Promotions Department, explains, "The cubs and puppies have even been guests at the White House, where they entertained President Barack Obama's two daughters Sasha and Malia. But no matter where Animal Ambassadors go, they play a vitally important role in educating the public about wildlife and in helping to raise money for wildlife conservation."

Animal Ambassador Programs, like the Columbus Zoo Animal Encounters Program, help fund a wide range of conservations efforts. For example, in a portion of the proceeds from each Columbus Zoo Animal Encounters Program is donated to the zoo's conservation fund. That fund helps support many of the conservation projects being conducted both at the zoo and in many countries around the world—including the CCF so it can purchase Anatolian shepherd dogs to be placed on farms in Africa. Wildlife conservation is a top priority, not only in Columbus, but also at zoos around the world. Let's take a look at how zoos work together to protect animals and maintain their survival.

From Frenemies for Life: Cheetahs and Anatolian Shepherd Dogs by John E. Becker, PhD; foreword by Jack Hanna, Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, copyright 2010; distributed by Lerner Publishing Group.

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