Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Brookfield Zoo RunRun

I'm so excited that I'm going to do the Brookfield Zoo RunRun again this year!  Last year it was the first 5k I had ever done, this year it will be the third time I'm doing such a thing, and I'm hoping to beat my time from last year's.  I'm also hoping to beat my fundraising from last year.  I raised $40 for the CZS Conservation Fund last year, and this year my goal is to raise $100. 
The reason I think this is a worthwhile cause, can best told as a story about something that happened the first year I was a member at Brookfield Zoo.  One day, as I wandered through the Habitat Africa Forest, I noticed this beautiful animal standing in her habitat. The okapi is a graceful member of the giraffe family, who looks like a cross between a zebra and a gazelle.

The signage was very clear that she is a shy animal, in fact so rarely seen that she is a symbol of cryptozoology (the search for animals whose existence had not been proven). I stood watching her for several minutes while she just stared at me. I whispered how beautiful she was and talked to her for several minutes, and slowly she walked up to the edge of her habitat and began rubbing on her cage as if she wanted me to pet her. Obviously I could not, in fact, pet her, but at that exact moment I fell in love.  Sadly, the okapi is on the endangered animal list.
From when I first read that she was endangered by habitat destruction, I knew I wanted to do something to help these beautiful animals thrive in the wild.  They, like most zoo animals, aren't meant to be confined to the small areas that zoos are forced to accomadate them in.  One of the interesting things about the okapi is how they protect their young.  The mother actually spends very little time with her young as she hides her infant and then leaves it so that predators are more likely to follow her than to find her young.  But in order for her to behave as she does in the wild, she needs a large space so she isn't to close to her infant. 
For a long time I didn't really know what I could do to help with conservation.  I didn't know that the Chicago Zoological Society had a conservation fund.  I read about the Zoo RunRun in my membership magazine several months later.  It probably wouldn't have stuck in my head as something I could do, except that by then I was walking on a regular basis with my friend Leah as part of my weight loss efforts.  Leah had mentioned to me on one of our walks her desire to run a 5k, just days before I read about the Zoo RunRun, and so events collided, and together with our friend Pirate Dr. Nurse Katie we walked the 5k last year in 45 minutes.
Please help me save the African habitat of the okapi, as well as the habitats of the more than 16,000 animals on the endangered list by donating to the CZS Conservation Fund on my fundraising page http://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/tinazastrow/brookfield-zoorunrun-2012.

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