Here at the Memphis Zoo, we love all animals - especially those that are endangered. Being able to help these fragile species grow, reproduce and thrive is something our keepers take pride in. It’s not an easy task, but it is one they set to accomplish each and every day. Sure, everyone knows the giant panda and ivory-billed woodpecker are endangered, but our experts wanted to spread the word about five animals you might not know are at risk that call the Memphis Zoo home.
The okapi is sometimes referred to as the “unicorn of Africa.” These animals are originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo, where its stripes serve as camouflage in the forest. Although it resembles a zebra, the okapi’s closest relative in the animal kingdom is the giraffe. The elusive herbivore has suffered habitat loss due to logging and human settlement and is now endangered. You can, however, find okapi like Miraq (pictured) in the new Zambezi River Hippo Camp exhibit. Miraq is one of only 23 of his kind on exhibit at an American Zoo Association-accredited institution.
Mississippi Gopher Frog
The Mississippi gopher frog, also known as the dusky gopher frog, is native to the southern United States. Its call is said to sound like a human snoring, and when it is exposed to bright light or feels threatened, it will cover its eyes with its hands. While the Mississippi gopher frog could once be found in a number of states below the Mason-Dixon line, its numbers have dramatically dwindled due to urban sprawl and deforestation. This frog can now only be found in captivity or in one of two ponds in Mississippi. They can also be found in our newly renovated Herpetarium.
The Pere David’s deer is named after Father (‘Pere’ in French) David, who observed the last remaining Chinese herd and wished to bring them back from near extinction. Originally from China, the rare deer is said to have the neck of a camel, the hooves of a cow, the tail of a donkey and the antlers of a deer. Pere David’s deer are semi-aquatic animals that enjoy swimming and standing in the water when they aren’t roaming the land. These animals are classified as “Extinct in the Wild,” and can only be found in captivity.
Louisiana Pine Snake
The Louisiana pine snake is a non-venomous constrictor that once called Louisiana and Texas home. Due to habitat destruction, it is now considered to be one of the rarest snakes in America. A reason for its endangered status is due to the fact that while their eggs are the largest of all snake species in the U.S., the number of eggs they lay is the lowest in the country. The Memphis Zoo has recently launched a conservation campaign for this endangered animal. Louisiana pine snakes from 21 zoos across the country will be consolidated into four institutions across the country including Memphis in an effort to breed the snakes and increase their population.
The striped newt is a species of salamander that is native to the southeastern section of the U.S. It can be identified by the red or orange stripes running down its back. The striped newt protects itself in the wild by producing toxins that can be fatal to its smaller predators. In 2010, the Memphis Zoo received a population of striped newts for reproduction as part of a project with the Coastal Plains Institute and the U.S. Forest Service. For the last six years, the Zoo has been breeding the newts and sending the offspring to Florida to be released into the wild.
Want to impress your friends and family? During your next visit to the Memphis Zoo, travel around the exhibits looking for these five animals and tell them what you’ve learned! For more information about our conservation efforts, click here.