Several times during the year, you can find Houston Zoo staff scouring the beaches of Galveston. All too often, trash, especially plastic products, is improperly disposed of and ends up in our waterways and the surrounding areas. What many people do not know is that these items can prove deadly to local wildlife. Plastics can take anywhere from 20 to over 600 years to decompose in the environment, and they can come into contact with countless organisms within that time.
Fish and other marine life can become entangled in leftover fishing line. Sea turtles can ingest plastic bags. Raccoons, turtles, and ducks can become stuck inside the loops of an uncut 6-pack ring. Once in the environment, plastic will remain until it is collected and disposed of properly. Houston Zoo staff assist with this by organizing beach and crab trap clean up days where employees, and often their family members, travel to Galveston and spend the day collecting trash and abandoned traps before they can become a hazard to our native wildlife.
Across the globe, anti-poaching units in Zimbabwe are faced with a similar struggle. However, instead of a few days out of the year, this is a full time job for them. They travel through the bush, collecting snares left behind by poachers seeking game such as antelope. Many animals, like lions and African painted dogs, fall prey to these traps. Without the anti-poaching units, these traps could be present in the environment for years. Since the Painted Dog Conservation’s anti-poaching unit’s inception in 2001, over 15,000 traps have been collected!
What can you do to help animals in the wild?
- Just by coming to the zoo you are helping to save animals in the wild as a portion of every admission goes right back to conservation programs!
- Recycle! Recycling items such as plastics can help keep them out of landfills and away from wildlife.
- Reuse! Purchase reusable shopping bags to reduce the amount of waste that goes into making and disposing of plastic ones. It also keeps plastic bags from ending up in our waters where it can be potentially consumed by animals like sea turtles.
- Dispose! Properly dispose of items like monofilament (fishing) lines. Many fishing areas have labeled bins for your convenience!
Want to learn more about African painted dogs and what the Houston Zoo is doing to help save them in the wild? Join us for our 3rd annual Dog Days of Summer celebration on June 5 and 6 from 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.!