By Lucas Widner
On the evening of the first day of the fall semester, Aug. 27, the Heritage Park Zoo across the street from campus was alive with the excitement and fascination of Embry-Riddle students.
The event was the Heritage Park Zoo’s annual night for Embry-Riddle students, faculty, and staff to explore the variety of incredible animals that live so close to our school.
Throughout the evening, hundreds of students drove or walked across the street to participate in the unique event.
Students mingled while eating hot dogs from the Turbo food cart, professors chatted with students while their children played on the playground, and Board of Campus Activities (BCA) volunteers served popcorn as peacocks roamed around the wide open grass field in the center of the zoo.
As the sun began to set, some animals like the black bear became more active, while others such as the lynx laid down to rest after a long day playing out in the sun.
The Heritage Park Zoological Sanctuary is a non-profit organization that hopes to inspire conservation through education.
They do so by rescuing and caring for animals from the local area that have been hurt or can no longer live on their own.
This event serves as a good reminder to everyone how important it is to conserve our environmental resources and help the animals whose habitats have been impacted by the spread of human urbanization.
Some of the animals at the Heritage Park Zoo have been rescued due to injuries caused by humans, and need careful watch to recover to health.
Students are encouraged to visit the zoo later in the semester for some of their popular events, such as a Breakfast with the Bears event on September 8th, Sip and Paint (21 and up) on September 22nd, Zoo by Moonlight on September 24th, Taste of the Wild (21 and up) on October 7th, and Breakfast with the Mexican Grey Wolves on October 13th.
If you are unable to make it to any of these special events, but still want to enjoy the zoo, it is open daily with student entry costing only $8 with student ID.
Many of the dedicated people who help care for these animals are unpaid volunteers.
One of the Docents, Jacqie Rollins, also a Wildlife Science student here at ERAU, has a high opinion of their volunteer program: “I love working at the zoo as a docent and we are always looking for more volunteers!”
For more information, Rollins suggests to “check our website [www.heritageparkzoo.org] and shoot us an email [firstname.lastname@example.org],” as the volunteers are always excited to help others learn more about what they do.