March 19, 2013
By Peter Clark
Zoo manager aims to teach about big cat conservation
Tigers face critical endangerment and Cougar Mountain Zoo Manager Robyn Barfoot wants to help.
After returning from her second trip to India in as many years to assist in the conservational efforts of big cats, she plans to share her experiences and impart the message in a lecture. On March 24, Barfoot will lead those interested in a presentation about the lessons she learned in her research of tiger conservation and how much of a difference individuals can make to the cause.
Entitled “A Night of Big Cats and Crazy Travel Stories,” the lecture will be held at the zoo. All proceeds go to the zoo’s education department and conservation efforts.
“People are big cat fans and a lot of times, they don’t understand how endangered those animals are,” Barfoot said. “There are a lot of people that I meet that do not realize that tigers are critically endangered.”
Two years ago, she entered a transformational friendship with Danita Daniel, a former director of the World Wildlife Fund in Pune, India. Daniel was determined to get Barfoot to India, hoping to broaden her experience in the wild and expand her contacts with conservation efforts. In India, Barfoot joined Dr. Rajesh Gopal, the director of Project Tiger, and worked firsthand to spread education in the area and find tigers in the wild.
With those experiences, Barfoot hopes to plan the lecture around three specific topics. First, she will explain why tigers are endangered, covering the ingrained notions of people who believe tiger parts can be used for medicinal purposes. Then, she will describe the benefits of eco tourism, how it can help the impoverished people who live in India and also the natural habitats there. Finally, she wants to explain the real change that one person can make.
“My hope is that everyone who goes to the lecture leaves feeling empowered and strong enough and optimistic enough to think, ‘Hey, I can do something to impact the world,’” she said.
Through her work at Cougar Mountain Zoo, Barfoot has tried to bring the public’s attention to the matter. The zoo is home to four tigers, raising its first two Bengal tigers, Taj and Almos, from cubs beginning in 2007.
Due to some slightly graphic content, there is an age limit of 10 and older for the lecture, although Barfoot made it clear she does not mean it to be a melancholy evening.
“It will be really entertaining as well as educational,” she said. “Everybody will be able to enjoy it.”
Due to space limitations, she asked that attendees register for the event beforehand.
“The way to get tigers to continue to survive is to educate people,” she said. “And, that’s what we do.”
If you go
‘A Night of Big Cats and Crazy Travel Stories’
- 6:30 p.m. March 24
- Cougar Mountain Zoo
- 19525 S.E. 54th St.
Learn more and pre-register at 392-6278, or www.cougarmountainzoo.org.
- Cost is $25. Proceeds go to education and conservation.