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Zoo Spotlight: Memphis Zoo

The Memphis Zoo has been offering citizens in western Tennessee and eastern Arkansas a glimpse at wildlife of the natural world since it opened in 1906. Located near Rhodes College and just 10 miles from Graceland, the Memphis Zoo offers 19 exhibits situated on 55 developed acres.

Morris Animal Foundation is no stranger to funding research at the Memphis Zoo, specifically the work of Dr. Andy Kouba, director of conservation and research. Dr. Kouba and his research teams have received funding for four different studies that have allowed them to examine nutrition in giant pandas and reproduction in amphibians. 

The Memphis Zoo is one of only four zoos in the United States to house pandas. With Foundation funding, Dr. Kouba and his research teams learned how pandas digest various parts of bamboo, their primary source of food. They then developed a model to understand dietary selection and nutritional requirements of the giant panda, which is being used to improve the health of captive pandas.

The Foundation relationship with Dr. Kouba actually began in 2001 with much smaller creatures: toads. The Foundation funded a study in which Dr. Kouba successfully bred the world’s first endangered amphibians (Wyoming toads) through artificial insemination and released them into the wild. In 2009, Dr. Kouba and his research team continued with a study that analyzed reproductive technologies in three endangered North American amphibians. His work led to the release of 30,000 tadpoles—5,000 conceived through in vitro fertilization—back into the wild. 

Zoos serve an important function in terms of conservation, public outreach and education, and their behind-the-scenes research helps wildlife around the globe flourish. Morris Animal Foundation has a longstanding history of funding important research at zoos. In addition to the Memphis Zoo, the Foundation has funded 50 studies totaling more than $4 million at zoos ranging from Baltimore to Berlin and Lincoln Park to London.

Click here to see how you can help continue the critical research being conducted at zoos around the world.

By: Allen Byrne

January 14, 2015