Ellen Trout Zoo aims to educate public with Endangered Species Extravaganza

Ellen Trout Zoo’s four stated goals of conservation, research, education and recreation were all on display to celebrate and educate visitors.
Published: Sep. 24, 2022 at 6:44 PM CDT

LUFKIN, Texas (KTRE) - The Ellen Trout Zoo hosted their annual Endangered Species Extravaganza on Saturday as part of Endangered Species Day.

The zoo’s four stated goals of conservation, research, education and recreation were all on display to celebrate and educate visitors on endangered animals.

All the animals were given enrichment items to have fun, and the zoo was joined by Lufkin High School students who volunteered to help educate the public in conservation efforts.

“We’re talking about an organization that zoos around the country are coming together and supporting to bring awareness to endangered species,” Courtney Adams, a Lufkin High School student said.

That organization is the Association of Zoos and Aquariums who raise money for its Saving Animals From Extinction program (S.A.F.E.). Zoos from around the country are celebrating in similar ways to make the biggest impact on the world.

“All of that conservation effort gets kind of pulled together so we can make a larger impact on our planet,” Whitney Heckler, Ellen Trout Zoo’s director of education, said.

Proceeds go to the S.A.F.E. program, but the Ellen Trout Zoo wants to make a local impact by informing the public about the animals and the hardships that they’re facing which is forcing them closer to extinction.

A volunteer and the zoo vet educate visitors at the gorilla booth.
A volunteer and the zoo vet educate visitors at the gorilla booth.(KTRE/Brian Jordan)

“I think it’s important for the newer generations to understand what’s happening to these species,” Jilian a volunteer said. “Because we want them to be around when they’re our age or our parents age.”

It’s also a passion project for many of the volunteers who grew up in the area and want to give back to help the animals or get into a career into helping animals.

“I really always loved going to the zoo growing up and I’m passionate about animals and doing as much as I can to help them,” Adeline, a Lufkin High School Student said.

And the volunteers go into detail on the man made issues that can hurt the animals, specifically animals who needs specific habitats to survive but are losing ground to to humans creating habitat loss.

“Well we just have to raise consciousness with the adults as well as the children,” Charda Bronaugh, a volunteer, said. “You just think Africa is a big place it has plenty of places for gorillas. But it doesn’t.”

Booths were placed all around the zoo to focus on specific animals at the zoo like giraffes, rhinos, flamingos and even some that didn’t have enclosures at the zoo like gorillas.