The Seneca Park Zoo is asking visitors to help in its attempt to break a world record on Friday.
Friday is World Elephant Day. The zoo is trying to create 35,000 origami elephants to surpass a record set by a zoo in Great Britain. The fun activity is calling attention to a heartbreaking reality.
That figure - 35,000 - represents the number of elephants killed in the wild by poachers every year.
"If we keep up at the same rate of 35,000 elephants each year being poached for their ivory, for their tusks, they're going to be gone in our lifetime,” said Pamela Reed Sanchez, executive director of the Seneca Park Zoo Society. “This is not something that will just happen when our grandchildren are around. This is now. The ivory is a really valuable commodity and it's being traded, essentially, to fund terrorism, and that's the piece many people are unaware of. It's funding Boko Haram and other ISIS-related terrorist groups."
Visitors to the zoo can help create the origami elephants at a station set up near the Africa exhibit from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday. The origami elephants will be tallied at the end of the month to determine if the current record of 33,764 was surpassed.
The Seneca Park Zoo is home to the only four African elephants in New York State. Gennie C and Lilac have been a main attraction at Rochester’s zoo for more than 30 years. The herd was doubled last year with the arrival of Moki and Chana.
All four female elephants are beyond their reproductive years, but the Seneca Park Zoo is playing a role in a species survival plan for elephants. When Moki and Chana left the zoo in Jacksonville, Florida, space was created for Jacksonville to start an elephant breeding program.
The goal of the species survival program is to maintain the genetic diversity of the population so it can be sustained in conservation for the next 100 years. Reed Sanchez says that would require about 7 live elephant births per year. “We are dangerously far away from that goal with many species, but particularly with elephants."