National Wildlife Day was created by Colleen Paige, an animal behaviorist and author, who chose September 4th to honor her friend, Steve Irwin. Irwin was a famous television celebrity from The Crocodile Hunter who was killed on September 4th, 2006 while filming when he was stabbed in the heart by a stingray. Paige also added Irwin’s birthday, February 22nd, as a second National Wildlife Day so we get to celebrate it twice a year.
Why We Celebrate National Wildlife Day
We celebrate this day to bring awareness to endangered animals all over the world as well as to acknowledge the animal sanctuaries and zoos in doing their part. According to the American Zoo and Aquarium Association, there are more than 10,000 zoos and sanctuaries all over the world that not only protect animals but also provide education and funding to conservation projects. The United States alone has more than 2,400 licensed zoos with over 250,000 animals. We have visited two of the zoos here in the Ozarks and they are pretty awesome.
Person taking a picture of goats
Visit the Zoo Nearest You
So, what can you do to celebrate National Wildlife Day? Well, there are plenty of things you can do to celebrate but I think the best one would be to visit a zoo near you. We have two here in the Branson area. Branson’s Wild World on West 76 Country Boulevard (the 76 Strip) and the Promised Land Zoo on Shepherd of the Hills Expressway. In Springfield, you can find Dickerson Park Zoo on North Fort Avenue and the Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium on West Sunshine Street. And just up the highway a bit you can see Wild Animal Safari on Jungle Drive.
Check Out the St. Louis Zoo
If you are looking for a larger zoo, try the St. Louis Zoo on Government Drive in St. Louis. It is just off of Highway 40 by Forest Park. I have been there many times and it is huge. In fact, they have 90 acres with more than 10,000 animals in over 550 species. And it is FREE. Yes, it is one of the few free zoos left in the United States and that makes it number one in my book. With six different sections highlighting unique animals in their habitats, you will need a whole day to see everything. And a lot of energy.
The River’s Edge takes you along the water to South America, the African Savanna, and Asia. Discovery Corner is great for kids with a Children’s Zoo and Education Gallery. Historic Hill brings you to the oldest part of the zoo with the Flight Cage from 1904 and the 1920s Bird House. See the giraffes, camels, zebras, and big cats at Red Rocks. Lakeside Crossing has stingrays you can touch at Caribbean Cove and the Lakeside Café where you can get some more energy. And the Wild Zone will take you to the rainforests to see the polar bears and penguins as well as the grizzly bears and apes.
Visit Your Local Park
If you don’t have a zoo nearby or just do not feel like going to a zoo, why not head to your local park? You can take a hike in the woods, do some bird watching, or get some fun photos to share on your favorite social media pages. Missouri has 92 state parks and thousands of city, community, and county parks as well. Just here in the Ozarks, we have 15 community parks and the 356-acre Table Rock State Park on Table Rock Lake. Fishing, swimming, boating, camping, hiking, and biking are popular activities in the park, but you can just sit and enjoy the lake too.
Have a National Wildlife Day Party
Invite all your friends and family over to celebrate. You can serve ‘cub’ cakes decorated as bear cubs, a cake decorated with teddy grahams that says, “Don’t Feed the Bears,” toss a bunch of stuffed animals around, and don’t forget the animal crackers! Plant some native plants that wildlife enjoy. Spend the rest of the day watching your favorite wildlife movies like Dr. Doolittle, Zookeeper, The Lion King, and Finding Nemo. Or just watch the Animal Planet or National Geographic channel.
Clean Up Your Town
Head to the park or local waterway to clean up trash and other debris that may be dangerous to animals. Gather old fishing line, trash, and whatever else that does not belong and throw it all away. If it can be recycled, recycle it or take it to a recycling place. Plastic grocery bags, old bottles or cans, and even old jars or containers you find can kill animals who ingest them or get tangled in them. Thousands of fish and other marine critters are killed every year from being stuck in old nets, discarded trash, and fishing line. So, pick up the trash to help keep your area nice and the wildlife healthy.