Sabinga's Updates: The Houston Zoo Staff Conservation Fund

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Sabinga collecting marine debris in Galveston

The Houston Zoo is excited to welcome a new intern who comes to us all the way from Kenya, in East Africa. Sabinga is in the United States participating in the Community College Initiative Program (CCIP). The Community College Initiative Program is a program of the U.S. Department of State, administered by Northern Virginia Community College onbehalf of the Community College Consortium (CCC) in partnership with Houston Community College. While participating in this program, he will join us at the zoo as an intern to learn all about what a modern-day zoo is like! Sabinga is already part of the conservation community as he has been working with Save the Elephants in Kenya for over 8 years. He will be documenting his experiences at the Zoo and we will share his thoughts with you here on our blog! Stay tuned for more! I joined the Houston Zoo as an intern in November 2014 in the conservation department, precisely under Renee Bumpus – Conservation Programs Manager. I understood the work of the Houston Zoo from Renee Bumpus with other accommodating and professional employees (Martha – Conservation Education Coordinator, Elyse – Conservation Coordinator, Ryan – Interactive Marketing coordinator and many more). They assisted me in everything I know, and Renee is fortunately not tired of me. She is my mega star on this matter I must say! She is constantly providing information according to Houston Zoo policy that an intern needs to know, to do and to learn. It’s a timely internship according to my school major and makes me feel on cloud nine (extreme happiness). On my internship I attend many meetings and workshops, join teams in the field, assist several departments according to schedule given. I extremely enjoy all of them, but I became tongue-tied by Houston Zoo Staff Conservation Fund.

SCF_with_tagline Staff Conservation Fund is a program where Zoo employees donate a portion of their hard-earned wages to conserve wildlife. The program provides funds for Houston Zoo staff to use to carry out programs to save wildlife. The program seeks to provide opportunities and resources for any Zoo staff member to become involved in conservation efforts and increase and strengthen the connections between Houston Zoo staff and conservation projects that help conservation, education, research, community outreach and allow staff to implement conservation initiatives on or off the Zoo ground, targeting those species, places and issues that need critical attention, or where the effects of the Staff Conservation Fund can have the greatest, widest impact. The Houston Zoo’s staff are pioneers on this Staff Conservation Fund Program that began in 2004 as a mechanism for staff involvement in conservation and saving wildlife. No other zoo in the United States operates such a successful program; it’s mind-blowing and heart opening in conservation.   This flourishing Staff Conservation Fund is well structured with a committee comprised of 11 staff members.  4 permanent positions on the committee are the conservation department; remaining 7 positions are from both animal and non-animal departments and rotate after 2 years terms. There are some successful projects that were funded by Staff Conservation Fund like Barton Spring Salamanders, Houston Toad Research, Marianas Islands Project, Painted Dog Rehabilitation Center Training and 22 other projects funded since the start of the program. To mention one, Lisa Marie – Veterinary Hospital and Animal Nutrition Manager at the Houston Zoo, applied for the Staff Conservation Fund and was awarded. She traveled across borders all the way to Africa to save painted dogs in the wild-an endangered species. She has done a marvelous job on assisting Painted Dog Conservation in Zimbabwe to set up the new research laboratory, expand the project and use acquired parasitology skills to collect data on painted dogs by sampling scat for DNA, stress and reproductive hormones, prey hair analysis and now working together with the Houston Zoo Veterinary Clinic on basic parasitology. This entire project was funded by the Staff Conservation Fund. It’s unique in its conservation mission and yields unquestionable positive results and sheds light on conservation projects like Painted Dog Conservation.

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Lisa Marie training staff at Painted Dog Conservation in Zimbabwe

The Save the Elephants organization in Kenya where I work has an almost matching program developed by field team and adopted by organization, called the Community Outreach Program. We have the Community Outreach Program because Save the Elephants is trying any way possible to win the battle against poaching of elephants. One example of an effort under the Community Outreach Program is reforming some of the notorious poachers to be conservationists and protectors of the wildlife. The battle is by no means won, but through Save the Elephants ever-growing Community Outreach Program, we see less elephants being poached. The Community Outreach Program is the project that Save the Elephants staff is doing outside of their normal daily activities; outside of our normal work to ensure animals are safe in the wild. This is very similar to the Staff Conservation Fund at the Houston Zoo, where employees take on work outside of their daily activities to make sure animals are safe in the wild. This is very encouraging program and big thumbs up to Houston Zoo staff, we need to follow their steps, it’s true time to set things right, enough for ourselves, for the wild we must fight, protect their kind, we have taken enough, now it is time to give and remember extinction is forever, we must act now, time is running out.

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Sabinga at an ivory burning in Kenya


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