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The hand and footprints of keepers and animals were collected on canvasses today as a pledge for the wild as Taronga announced an in situ conservation project for elephants in Thailand.

Encouraged by their keepers, animals including an elephant, a Quokka, a seal and a Fiordland Penguin, dipped their feet and flippers into animal-friendly paint, and smudged their prints onto canvasses, creating a powerful signature for the wild to inspire conservation action by people.

Over the past weeks keepers have been collecting the paw, hand, flipper and hoof-prints of some of the 4000 animals at Taronga and Taronga Western Plains Zoos before today’s announcement of Taronga’s commitment to an elephant protection project in Thailand’s Kui Buri National Park.

Taronga is helping fund the $100,000 construction and maintenance project for two guard stations at key locations in a chain of outposts on the park’s border to help prevent elephant-human conflict, in a joint program with Zoos Victoria.

Taronga Zoo Director, Cameron Kerr, said: “We’ve chosen this day to announce our latest conservation project for the wild, to coincide with enlisting our staff and the animals in their care as ambassadors for wild creatures. By letting them make their mark, we’re visually signifying Taronga’s commitment to wildlife conservation and we hope all our visitors and supporters will join us in this pledge.”

“A lot of people don’t realise the critical role modern zoos have, as a zoo visitor sees what is really just the tip of the iceberg of what we do for wild animals. We really are ‘For the Wild’ and we’d like people to join us in this pledge.”

“Without zoos, animals like critically endangered Sumatran Tigers and Corroboree Frogs might be extinct, little would be known about animals like the elusive Leopard Seal, generations of children would’ve missed the chance see, smell and be inspired by wildlife and important research like cyro-preserving the coral of the Great Barrier Reef would not be carried out.”

“Ultimately, we hope that our animals will one day thrive in the wild. But the reality is, due to humans, the ‘wild’ is a very fragmented and dangerous place for many living creatures.”

“Until the threats of habitat destruction, poachers and disease are minimised, Taronga is here as a home, school, nursery, a dating and mating service and importantly a safety-net because, simply put, we’re for the wild.”

“Collecting the prints has been a fun project for many of us across the Zoo. Animals like our Fiordland Penguin, Mr. Munro, happily jumped and skidded across the canvas, others like our seals were trained to make their mark and it was surprising how some of the animal prints challenged preconceived ideas of what you think they’d look like,” said Cameron.

Placing the footprint of Pak Boon, our 3010 kg female elephant next to the fingernail-sized print of a tiny Feathertail Glider, the world’s smallest gliding mammal, was a unique and humbling way of seeing the incredible diversity of the animals we care for.”

“This Sunday, we’re also asking our visitors and supporters to make their mark for wildlife by either adding their hand print to canvasses in the Zoos’ free-entry Main Plaza or by jumping online to pledge their support.” 

Taronga. For the Wild. www.taronga.org.aa/forthewild 

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