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with Frank Ridgley DVM, Zoo/Wildlife Veterinarian for Zoo Miami's Conservation & Research Department
Zoo Miami has three lakes that were created when the zoo was originally constructed. This program strives to transform these manmade lakes into functional wildlife refuges for many imperiled and protected species that frequent Zoo Miami grounds.
Many of the natural wetlands in Miami-Dade County have been destroyed through development. The imperiled and protected species that rely on these habitats have fewer areas suitable for them to inhabit. Many migratory birds from the Caribbean, Central and South America depend on these areas as stopping points before heading on long legs of their journeys or recharging after they have newly arrived. Therefore, the loss of such habitats has effects that extend far beyond our county, state or even hemisphere.
Zoo Miami received funding from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) for the first stage in transforming these bodies of water. The monies from this grant went towards removal of thousands of invasive shoreline plants and the establishment of natives like bald cypress, pond apple, and giant reed along their shores. Zoo Miami has also obtained some other native floating, shoreline and submerged plants to increase the lakes’ biodiversity, wading bird habitat and protected nursery areas for fish. The Eagle Scouts and Zoo Miami cooperated to build and place 4 bald eagle/osprey nesting platforms near the lakeshores to encourage habitation of these frequent visitors. To help complete the lakes’ transformations, native fish have been stocked in the lakes to create reliable food sources for shorebirds and birds of prey, basking areas for turtles were placed, and we continue to help increase the biodiversity by adding appropriate natives when the opportunities arise.
Zoo Miami staff removing a stand of invasive Australian pine along a lakeshore.
The transformation is a slow process but staff continues to enjoy watching the lakes mature and being able to witness the natural recruitment of wildlife increase.
Florida softshell turtle on basking platform
Double crested cormorants
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