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Today is April 8, 2021

Zoo Lover’s Day

Make the most of a visit to the zoo

A trip to the zoo is a great way to enjoy an afternoon as a family. Visiting the zoo involves spending time in the great outdoors and introduces adults and children to non-native animals and their habitats.

Today’s zoos are committed to conservation efforts, educational pursuits and breeding animals – particularly endangered species – to replenish their numbers. Many animal exhibits seek to replicate natural environments as much as possible so animals are as healthy and happy as they would be in the wild.

North America is home to a variety of zoos, including the Calgary Zoo, the Toronto Zoo, the San Diego Zoo, Lincoln Park Zoo, and the Central Park Zoo. According to CBS Local, The Bronx Zoo, located in a borough of New York City, is the largest zoo in the United States. The Bronx Zoo encompasses 265 acres and features 4,000 animals.

Even though a trip to the zoo can seem easy enough, there are ways to improve a visit and make the most of time spent seeing and learning about the animals that live there.

· Start your trip before you get to the zoo. Find out which animals are featured at the zoo and do some research prior to your visit. While at the zoo, enjoy observing the animals and putting your newfound knowledge to use.

· Explore special features. Plan to visit the zoo on a day when there is a special exhibit or hands-on learning experience, such as a feeding or meet-and-greet with animals.

· Plan ahead. Visit the zoo website to print a map and get schedules so you don’t waste any time looking for exhibits.

· Mimic the animals. Children can tour the zoo while imitating the sounds and movements of the animals they see. This will make the day more entertaining and reinforce lessons.

· Pack a lunch. Plan a picnic beside a favorite outdoor exhibit. Bringing food from home is cost-effective and the backdrop provides amazing ambiance. Just don’t share lunch with the wildlife, which are on specialized diets.

Days at the zoo can be exciting excursions that are easy to plan and even easier to enjoy.

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National Wildlife Week

What you can do to help local wildlife

As the world’s population has increased, so, too, has the need to accommodate such growth. Areas that were wild as recently as 100 years ago may have long since been overrun by housing and urban development, leaving little space for local wildlife to call home.

According to the World Wildlife Federation’s “Living Planet Report 2018,” populations of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, and amphibians declined by 60 percent in the roughly 40 years prior to the report’s release. The WWF notes that the primary threats to wildlife populations, which include habitat loss and degradation, can be directly linked to human activities.

If human activities contributed to the decline of wildlife populations, then there’s hope that human activities also can spur the return of such populations. The Animal Welfare Institute notes that the following are some things that ordinary citizens can do to help local wildlife.

· Exercise your right to engage in the political process. Voting may be the simplest way to engage in the democratic process, but it’s by no means the only way people can make their voices heard. Write to local and national government officials and encourage them to support and/or introduce policies that protect wildlife.

· Plant native species. Native species of flowers, trees and bushes provide food and shelter to local wildlife. When designing landscapes and gardens, speak with a local lawn and garden professional about which species are native to your area and do your best to plant those species. Gardeners may be frustrated when local wildlife eat plants or flowers they worked hard to plant, but the right species may even grow back during the same season after being eaten by local wildlife.

· Reduce the amount of lawn in your yard. A pristine lawn can be eye-catching, but lawns do not provide significant food and shelter to local wildlife. Garden beds, native plants and flowers provide both aesthetic appeal and food for local wildlife.

· Embrace a new approach to fall cleanup. Gathering and discarding fallen leaves and dead flower heads is an autumn tradition that many homeowners do not look forward to. Thankfully, a wildlife-friendly approach to fall cleanup can benefit local animals and save homeowners the hassle of fall cleanup. For example, insect-eating birds can survive an entire winter by consuming insects that spend their winters on dead plant stems. Homeowners can speak with a local lawn and garden center to determine wildlife-friendly ways to approach fall cleanup in their yards.

· Volunteer with local environmental organizations. Local environmental organizations are always in need of some helping hands, and these groups do tremendous work to protect and restore local ecosystems. Organizations may sponsor a host of programs that can benefit local wildlife, such as beach cleanups, invasive plant removal projects and native plant planting days.

Taking steps to protect local wildlife can be a great way to restore local ecosystems and wildlife populations.

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Volunteer Safely at Home or in Person During Global Volunteer Month

(StatePoint) April is Global Volunteer Month, a time to recognize the power of volunteers to tackle society’s greatest challenges.

Launched last year by Points of Light, the world’s largest nonprofit dedicated to accelerating people-powered change, Global Volunteer Month serves to activate volunteers and support the most vulnerable populations. And over the past year, volunteers have joined the ranks of frontline workers and first responders to fight against COVID-19, support the vaccination roll-out, address systemic racism and ensure equity and opportunity for all.

“We launched Global Volunteer Month last year during a time of great uncertainty that made it even more important for us to find ways to unite communities and connect people despite distance,” says Natalye Paquin, president and CEO of Points of Light.

A recent survey demonstrates that despite all the obstacles, 2020 marked one of the most civically-engaged years in history. Fifty-two percent of Americans surveyed volunteered for the first time during the pandemic. However, seven out of 10 respondents reported that while the effects of COVID-19 on their community made them more eager to volunteer, they’ve hesitated due to safety concerns.

To volunteer safely during Global Volunteer Month and beyond, consider these ideas and tips from Points of Light:

1. Offer vaccination assistance. Scheduling vaccinations can be tricky, particularly for those who aren’t web-savvy or don’t speak English as a first language. Whether you work with individuals in your extended network or volunteer with organizations helping to centralize vaccination information, there are many ways to be involved from home. On-site opportunities to help people navigate their vaccination appointment also exist, and your assistance may be especially needed if you’re multilingual. Vaccination distribution centers follow all CDC social distancing guidelines to ensure the health and safety of volunteers.

2. Give rides to medical appointments. Seniors without transportation often need rides to life-sustaining medical appointments. With the roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccine, this need has increased. Connect with a local organization near you that follows protocols to keep drivers and the elderly safe.

3. Support food distribution. The concurrent medical and economic crises have made grocery shopping dangerous for some, and unaffordable for others. Drive-through food distribution centers and contactless drop-off services are essential social protection programs you can support. As more people get vaccinated, an increasing number of in-person volunteer opportunities will likely open up and be needed in food banks.

4. Comfort the grieving. Those who are grieving often need critical emotional support. While some organizations are searching for licensed counselors to make comfort calls, others are looking for anyone with a big heart and a listening ear.

5. Maintain public spaces. As warm weather arrives, communities are looking for volunteers to beautify and improve the local environment of public parks and spaces.

6. Help students succeed. Even in normal years, many families need assistance with school supplies and homework help, and the pandemic has only exacerbated these issues. Help students succeed by providing virtual tutoring through a homework helpline or by contributing to or hosting a donation drive for school supplies.

7. Support health initiatives. After facing long periods of isolation, there is a growing demand to help build strong communities by supporting local fitness and nutrition programs. Virtual and in-person opportunities abound for people of all professional backgrounds and skillsets, ranging from coaching youth runners to widening access to nutrition information in low-income neighborhoods.

8. Show gratitude. Recognize and thank first responders, volunteers and frontline workers. Many say that handwritten letters are the most cherished items received in care packages. This is also a great way to get kids involved!

9. Make connections. During the pandemic, homebound people have been more isolated than ever. Organizations are looking for volunteers to make regular phone calls to provide companionship and determine if individuals are in need of additional assistance.

10. Just volunteer! Visit Points of Light at pointsoflight.org/volunteer to find a local affiliate in your area, search the world’s largest digital hub for volunteering and community engagement opportunities, as well as to find tips and best practices for safely volunteering from home or in communities. And be sure to inspire others to uplift their communities by sharing your experiences using #GlobalVolunteerMonth on social media.