The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) is proud to announce the Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden placed second in the online public voting contest highlighting inclusive, family-friendly volunteer activities at AZA-accredited facilities. The OKC Zoo will receive a $10,000 conservation donation that will be awarded to Okies for Monarchs, an initiative of the Oklahoma Monarch and Pollinator Collaborative, that supports monarch and pollinator conservation throughout the state.  

AZA-member, North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores, was named the first-place winner of the video contest and received a $25,000 conservation donation.

Party for the Planet®, an eight-week long observance between Earth Day (April 22) and World Oceans Day (June 8) is one of AZA’s largest public engagement efforts to inspire others to respect, protect, and conserve wildlife and wild places. This year, with support from the Disney Conservation Fund, Party for the Planet featured a new theme, “Spring into Action,” encouraging families to volunteer within their communities. AZA-accredited facilities submitted video summaries of the impact of their events, which were evaluated on volunteerism impact, community engagement, and conservation message, and narrowed to 10 finalists before going to public vote on Facebook and YouTube. 

This April, the OKC Zoo “sprung into action” by hosting a pollinator planting event at the Zoo. More than 600 guests planted a total of 676 plants while learning the importance of pollinators to a healthy ecosystem. 

“The Oklahoma City Zoo is extremely grateful to our community supporters who voted for our video and helped us earn this incredible win for Okies for Monarchs and pollinator conservation,” said Rebecca Snyder, OKC Zoo curator of conservation and science. “As a founding member of Okies for Monarchs, we join them in their efforts to protect these vulnerable insects and know this donation will allow them to continue supporting efforts to educate and inform Oklahomans about the value of all pollinators and the simple steps they can take to protect them.”

More than 120 AZA-accredited facilities took part in Party for the Planet activities this year, with various family-friendly projects ranging from trash cleanups to citizen science to habitat restoration. AZA members hosted over 140 events, engaged over 6,500 volunteers, and dedicated over 16,000 hours to conservation projects. AZA members collected nearly 3,000 pounds of trash, cleaned 115 miles of coastline, planted 40,000 native and pollinator-friendly seeds and plants, and recycled 12,000 pounds of electronics. 

The winning videos will be shared and the members recognized, along with the donation recipients, at the AZA Annual Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana, in September.

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