Jack Hanna helps kick off 'Wonders of Water' education campaign

On April 1, at the John G. Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, wildlife conservationist Jack Hanna and the American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA) launched Wonders of Water, a public education campaign to help families learn about and conserve water and the animals that depend on it. Throughout the year, AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums will engage families in fun, water-themed programs that include art projects, storytelling, stream or beach clean-ups, zookeeper chats and scavenger hunts.

"The American Zoo and Aquarium Association wants Wonders of Water to get people excited about water, one of our most important natural resources, and how all life relates to it. We hope that it involves people with water, habitat and animal conservation," said Hanna. "People often think they cannot make a difference, but the reality is that by working together, we can help keep our oceans and water safe for all living things. People are often shocked to learn that the majority of water pollution is caused by individuals. If we are the biggest problem, then we can certainly make the biggest difference."

As part of Wonders of Water, Hanna and AZA also announced the first-ever AZA Animal Wild Card, a "top-10" list which highlights species at risk, explains the threats they face in the wild and describes what accredited zoos and aquariums are doing to help conserve these creatures and their habitat. This year's AZA Animal Wild Card features a variety of animals that live in, on or near the water and are facing serious threats to their survival.

Some of the animals on AZA's Animal Wild Card are classified as endangered or threatened, and all face ongoing problems or emerging threats. The animals on AZA's 2005 Animal Wild Card are:

1. Green sea turtle 2. Bald eagle 3. Corals 4. Polar bear 5. Freshwater rays 6. Seahorses 7. African penguin 8. Sand tiger shark 9. North American otter 10. Puerto Rican crested toad

The AZA developed Wonders of Water in response to public concern about the compromised conditions of the world's drinking water, oceans, lakes, rivers and reservoirs. A 2004 national Gallup Poll found that water-related issues topped the list of Americans' environmental concerns and was perceived as a more pressing issue than global warming, air pollution or acid rain. The U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy delivered its final report in Sept. 2004, which affirmed that our country's oceans are imperiled by pollution, disjointed government protection and oversight, and lack of public education. The report also emphasized the key role of aquariums to help people learn more about the ocean, thus increasing their ocean literacy.

Wonders of Water aims to help fill the education gap by helping people understand that from the air we breathe to the food we eat, we all depend on the ocean for survival. Whether we live on the coasts or in the middle of the country, oceans produce 70 percent of our oxygen, regulate our weather and rainfall and provide valuable resources, such as healing medicines.

To learn more about Wonders of Water and how people can help conserve water and the animals that depend on it, visit http://www.AzasWeb.com.

This article originally appeared in the 04/01/2005 issue of Environmental Protection.

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