If you visited the DWA earlier this fall, you may have noticed some signage for our CroctoberFest event which was held on Saturday, October 19th. Events and activities were set up around the Aquarium in an effort to increase awareness of crocodiles and crocodilian conservation and to help raise funds to support the AZA’s Crocodile Advisory Group.
With so many different animals at the Aquarium, people have asked: “Why crocodiles?” One simple answer is that many species of crocodilians around the world are in trouble and they need our help. They have been over-hunted for their skins and have been negatively impacted by habitat loss and modification. Crocodilians tend to be large animals that require a lot of space relative to many of the animals that share their environment (most fish, amphibians, other reptiles, birds, and mammals), and any efforts to safeguard crocodilian habitat will not only benefit the crocodiles, but all of the other plant and animal species that share the same environment. In addition to the ecological importance of crocodiles, we as a facility are very proud of our pair of Orinoco crocodiles – Juancho and Miranda. This pair of critically endangered crocodiles was the first to successfully reproduce outside of their natural range, and over the past ten years they have produced more than 100 off-spring (54 of which were returned to Venezuela where they were reintroduced into the wild).
In the theater, we had informational and interactive stations set-up with crocodile facts, artifacts, and games. Guests got to see real crocodile eggs, compare the skulls of crocodiles and alligators, and put their new found knowledge to the test. The Silent Auction featured artwork done by representatives of the six critically endangered crocodilian species and National Geographic memorabilia. Crocodile specialists from the Smithsonian National Zoo, the San Diego Zoo, and Chicago’s Brookfield Zoo presented posters on captive-reproduction strategies, field work, and behavioral studies being done at their facilities. For the event, we also introduced our mascot – Coco the Black Caiman. Coco was on hand for photo ops, and made some media appearances promoting the event. Other events included “Meet the Keeper” sessions for more information on our crocodiles and caiman, and feeding and training demonstrations (yes, crocs can learn!).
The fundraising luncheon was the main event, and we were very proud to host Dr. Brady Barr from National Geographic as our Keynote Speaker. Colette Adams from the Gladys Porter Zoo and DWA’s Luis Sigler opened the lecture series, each discussing the different roles that zoos and aquariums play in the conservation and captive management of endangered species. Carl Franklin from UT-Arlington presented on the American Alligator population in the Metroplex, and Brady Barr closed the program with some very exciting and highly entertaining stories (with footage!) from his career working with National Geographic. In over 15 years, Dr. Barr has traveled to more than 80 countries for National Geographic Television to host over 100 wildlife documentaries — more than anyone in National Geographic’s history. Among his many notable achievements, Brady was the first person to ever capture and study all 23 species of crocodilians in the wild.At the end of the day we raised just shy of $1700 for AZA’s Crocodilian Advisory Group, which will be used to help support crocodilian conservation, research, and education projects. A special thanks to the individuals and institutions that helped make this event possible: Colette Adams, Carl Franklin, and Brady Barr, Lauren Augustine (Smithsonian), Joey Brown (SDZG), Karissa Pryes (Brookfield), Chelonia Eco-Adventures, the San Diego Zoo, the Gladys Porter Zoo, the St. Augustine Alligator Farm, Zoo Miami, and our neighbors at the Dallas Zoo.
Disappointed you missed out on the fun? Keep your eyes and ears open for news of CroctoberFest 2014 – we hope to see you there!