Zoo New England Merges with Grassroots Wildlife Conservation

Zoo New England officials recently announced that Grassroots Wildlife Conservation has become part of Zoo New England. Grassroots Wildlife Conservation is a local non-profit organization with proven success and commitment to preserving rare and threatened species in eastern Massachusetts such as Blanding’s turtles, eastern spadefoot toads and has started to protect spotted turtles in West Roxbury.

Photo credit: Masao Okano, amaraphoto.com

Zoo New England, which manages Franklin Park Zoo in Boston and Stone Zoo in Stoneham, is deeply committed to saving wildlife and wild places both locally and abroad. This merger is in perfect alignment with Zoo New England’s strategic plan, designed to advance mission delivery and conservation impact, as well as expand the capacity to create fun and engaging experiences that connect visitors of all ages to the wonders of the natural world.

“By combining our skills and resources, together through this merger we are going to be able to fulfill our mission of saving animals from extinction in a much deeper and more impactful way,” said John Linehan, Zoo New England President and CEO. “Grassroots Wildlife Conservation has made a tremendous impact in the lives of so many schoolchildren, adults and volunteers. At the local level, they are instilling a conservation ethic and a sense of stewardship for the planet, and this is why we’re so passionate about continuing this work and expanding it further. When you can do this important conservation work locally, and kids can actually watch a turtle they have helped raise swim away and begin a new life in the wild, that’s when the magic happens. This work can change our perspective and understanding of nature and the positive impact we can have.”

Through innovative community-based outreach and resource initiatives, GWC has engaged thousands of schoolchildren and volunteers in on-the-ground rare species conservation efforts focused on species including Blanding’s turtles, eastern spadefoot toads, bridle shiners, marbled salamanders, and New England blazing star. Zoo New England has worked with GWC staff since 2007, most notably on the Blanding’s turtle head-start program and more recently on the marbled salamander reintroduction project in the Middlesex Fells.

“Conserving species and having as rich, as beautiful, as diverse and as healthy an ecosystem as we can right here where we live in eastern Massachusetts is a big job. We are really excited to become part of a larger, much more established organization, which will enable us to greatly expand our work and reach,” said Dr. Bryan Windmiller, founder and Executive Director of Grassroots Wildlife Conservation. “Zoo New England’s Franklin Park Zoo and Stone Zoo see more than 600,000 visitors a year, who visit in large part because they are interested in wildlife and animals. We have an incredible opportunity to reach a much larger audience with our conservation message, as well as potentially engage them in hands-on projects in their own communities.”

As a result of the merger, Windmiller will now serve as director of Zoo New England’s Conservation department. This department is committed to preserving local biodiversity of rare native animals and plants, while also working to save species on a national and international level.

Grassroots Wildlife Conservation staff is currently working with 3,700 students in 38 schools, primarily on the Blanding’s turtle head-start program. To date, 636 Blanding’s turtles have been head-started at five different Massachusetts sites. The staff has also helped in the head-start and release of more than 8,000 eastern spadefoot toad juveniles at Ashumet Holly Wildlife Sanctuary and 755 at Drumlin Farm. Plans are also underway to monitor and protect spotted turtles in West Roxbury. Under the leadership of Zoo New England, Grassroots Wildlife Conservation staff have also assisted in Zoo New England’s bio-blitzes to survey local wildlife within Franklin Park as part of the Franklin Park Biodiversity Project.