Busch Gardens may be closed for the season, but the park's zoo team is busier than ever. Educating the public about wildlife conservation is a core function of Busch Gardens’ zoological department. Every year, animal ambassadors and their human handlers visit dozens of schools, community centers and festivals to interact with the general public in their neighborhoods.
The team recently joined up with the National Park Service for a special animal interaction program at Historic Jamestowne, the site of America’s first permanent English settlement. The National Park Service in conjunction with Preservation Virginia oversees the daily operations and educational programming on the island, which sits between Hampton Roads and Richmond on the James River.
On Feb. 20, Jamestown's 400-plus-year history took a back seat to nesting pair of American Bald Eagles that live on the isolated island.The park service developed a program to teach the public about these majestic birds of prey and the natural resources that coincide with the historic significance of the site. Through an arrangement with the park service, Busch Gardens' zoo team brought an American Bald Eagle, a Harris Hawk and a Barn Owl to the island to teach visitors about wildlife conservation through human-bird interactions.
“Few people ever get close to these amazing birds. Through these interactions, our animal ambassadors teach important lessons about wildlife conservation and habitat protection,” said Supervisor of Zoological Operations Anita Jackson who along with animal trainers Cassy Landon and Jennifer LaFountain brought the birds to the island for three performances.
More than 200 visitors to the island participated in the program, wrote Park Ranger Kirk Kehrberg in a letter thanking Jackson and her team for bringing the birds and for participating in what the agency said was a successful program.