The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will send a collection of seized imported wildlife articles to Salt Lake City's Hogle Zoo and a dozen other zoos around the United States later this month to help educate children on the illegal trade in such goods.
The service said this week that such imports threaten some species with extinction. They are banned by U.S. law and anyone attempting to bring endangered wildlife into the country may be prosecuted.Forty suitcases filled with ivory figurines, rhino-horn pills, animal and bird skins, bracelets made of sea turtle shells, pocketbooks made from the skins of protected reptiles, black coral jewelry and alligator-skin shoes are being shipped to the 13 zoos chosen to help educate the public on such exotic goods. Hogle Zoo will keep the items and use them in programs in local Utah schools.
The materials are due to arrive in Salt lake City between April 29 and May 5, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said.
Millions of dollars worth of such illegal items are brought into the U.S. each year, according to the service, and customs agents are trained to seize them.
Rich Hendron, education curator at Hogle Zoo, said Thursday the program was arranged through the American Association of Zoological Parks and Aquariums and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
"We will be offering workshops at our zoo to teachers on how to use the materials in their classrooms. We have not received the suitcases, but we were interested in participating because we think we have people in the Salt Lake area who are interested in wildlife conservation," Hendron said.
Hendron said this is the first year the program has been offered. Essentially, "we are looking at a pilot program . . . to see if it will work for the schools and zoos involved. There are more than 150 American Association of Zoological Parks and Aquarium-certified zoos in the country. Hogle Zoo is one of 13 trying the pilot program.
"We have been corresponding with AAZPA since January. We knew last September we would be involved," Hendron said.