Eco-friendly: Gladys Porter Zoo throws a party for the planet

Jack Layton walks through the water jet on the playground on Saturday morning during the Party for the Planet at the Gladys Porter Zoo. (Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald)

While a visit to the Gladys Porter Zoo is always a party, Saturday visitors were invited to a zoo-wide party, for planet Earth.

From 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Party for the Planet provided zoo visitors with free admission, free activities, demonstrations, talks, games, and conservation demonstrations centered around celebrating life on the planet. that we call home.

The party is also the first all-in-person event the zoo has held since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Party For the Planet is an initiative of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) to educate the public about Earth’s biodiversity and how to make a difference. By attending their local AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums for the event, visitors find family-friendly activities and demonstrations to connect with nature and simple ways to work to protect it at home.

The national event is a combined celebration of Earth Day (April 22), Endangered Species Day (May 20) and World Oceans Day (June 8).

Each participating organization adds their own twist to the event to highlight the animal needs, habitats and special environmental issues of their community. For Gladys Porter Zoo, this year is about talking about things like pollinators, marine litter, composting and recycling.

While enjoying the zoo itself, children and families could play games, such as a recycling race to sort and recycle items or learn about pollinators like butterflies and bees. The event also featured crafts, face painting and a spin to win one of 100 native saplings donated by the Wildlife Conservation and Education Society of South Texas and Apache Corporation.

Brownsville Healthy Communities, Resaca de la Palma State Park, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have also set up information kiosks along the way to provide visitors with educational opportunities to explore.

In addition to activities for the general public, the event also offered something extra for daisies, brownies, juniors and cadets from local Girl Scouts of America troops – the opportunity to work and earn a badge at the zoo.

Scouts Daisy, Brownies and Junior received a guide booklet to complete the new Design with Nature badge through zoo activities, which focuses on exploring nature through math and measurement. Cadets could begin work on their tree badge to learn about a tree at the zoo and possibly care for it.

“I’m super excited because we’re doing the new Design with Nature badges. This badge incorporates STEM into eco-friendly ideas for things you need. So for hiking, at a resort, girls have to figure out how much volume that actually fits in a backpack,” said Dinah Garcia, scout troop leader for Troop 457.

With 120 Girl Scouts pre-registered for the event, booths and activities throughout the park were full of Girl Scouts learning and experiencing through nature.

Heidy Adrano brought her daughter, Girl Scout Daisy Valeria of Troop 457, to the event as part of their Scouting tradition.

“His siblings have been part of the Girl Scouts for 5 years and they have always enjoyed this event. They get to experience nature and see the animals. It’s just a good fun thing to do with them – and they love it,” a- she declared.

As zoo visitors browsed the celebration’s activities, exhibitors highlighted all the little ways everyone can care for the world around them.

With so many environmental areas for improvement, zoo marketing director Cynthia Garza Galvan wanted visitors to not only leave the event with a better understanding of our planet; but an action plan for its future, no matter how small.

“I want them to take home that everyone matters and they can do something. It can be as simple as creating a garden habitat for monarchs, bees or other migrating butterflies. They can take small steps in their own backyard that make a big difference in the grand scheme of things,” she said.

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