Saving Turtles and Remembering Rocky

It is one of the faces of the Gulf oil disaster, and one that Pittsburgh has been helping through the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium. One that you can still help through August 31st. The Zoo is competing for a 25 thousand dollar grant that is being awarded by the Pepsi Refresh Project. The Project  is $1.3 million for support of projects and communities in the Gulf in the wake of the BP spill. And what a horrible wake it has been for thousands of hard-working families. Not to mention a host of species , some of which are endangered.

Here is the link where you can still vote through today (August 31).

This is Dr. Ginger Takle, who spent several weeks in the Gulf, rescuing and rehabilitating sea turtles covered and filled with oil. She was at the Audubon Aquatics Center , part of the Audubon Nature Institute near New Orleans. Ginger was there for 2 weeks in July. The vast majority of those turtles treated were Kemps Ridley, the most critically endangered of all the sea turtle species. Ginger and the Zoo were part of a nationwide effort that included veterinarians and vet techs from zoos around the country. The effort continues with the drive for the grant, to bring sea turtles here to the Zoo’s Aquarium to continue their rehabilitation, and then re-introduce them to their natural habitat.

And as we in the Pittsburgh strive to help bring new life to animals in another region, animal lovers here are mourning the loss of a favorite at the Pittsburgh Zoo–Rocky.

Rocky came to the Zoo from Cleveland 27 years ago, when he was a year-old cub. He had to be put down two weeks ago because of the crippling arthritis that had made it almost impossible for him to move. Media outlets around the city, and zoo faithful paid tribute, not only to

the magnificent 1200 pound Kodiak (whose species is native to Alaska), but to the special keeper, Mo Brown, who was his buddy the last 11 1/2 years.

One of the special memories I will have is spending an afternoon with Rocky and Mo three years ago. This photo was taken right after I had fed Rocky one of his favorite foods–grapes!  He took them so gently from my fingers, and the experience left me breathless. His head was massive. Mo was with him the day he and Dr. Stephanie James put him to sleep, and Mo kissed that great big head goodbye. Rocky is buried at the International Conservation Center in Somerset County, a beautiful wild area that is a fitting resting place for Mo’s beloved bear.


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