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Division of Wildlife Awards Toledo Zoo $250,000 for Wildlife Conservation

COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife presented The Toledo Zoo and Aquarium with a $250,000 check to fund the zoo’s continuing wildlife conservation work. The check was presented during the zoo’s release of lake sturgeon, a state-endangered fish, into the Maumee River. The funds will support the zoo’s efforts to restore lake sturgeon and eastern hellbenders into their natural waterways.

Caption: An Ohio endangered lake sturgeon netted last week in Lake Erie by Division of Wildlife biologists. The sturgeon was examined and returned unharmed to the lake.
Caption: An Ohio endangered lake sturgeon netted last week in Lake Erie by Division of Wildlife biologists. The sturgeon was examined and returned unharmed to the lake.

“I am pleased to show our gratitude to The Toledo Zoo and Aquarium for their important work in restoring Ohio’s wildlife,” said ODNR Director Mary Mertz. “Funds like this enable the zoo to continue conserving at-risk species. Ohio is at its best when all our native species receive the support they deserve.”

Lake sturgeon reach up to 8 feet in length and 200 pounds in weight as adults. They historically spawned in Ohio River and Lake Erie tributaries, but by 1971 had disappeared from Ohio. The species is long-lived and slow to reproduce, making species recovery difficult. For several years, the Toledo Zoo and Aquarium has reared young lake sturgeon using Maumee River water and released them each fall with hopes that they’ll return to the river in the future to spawn.

“The Toledo Zoo and Aquarium is very appreciative of this support, and the opportunity to work with partners like the Division of Wildlife,” said Kent Bekker, Senior Vice President and Chief Mission Officer of the Toledo Zoo. “We are committed to assisting with the recovery of Ohio’s species of greatest conservation need. These funds will benefit several of our projects with those species.”

“Restoring lake sturgeon to the Maumee River would not be possible without collaboration,” said Division of Wildlife Chief Kendra Wecker. “I’m proud to partner with the Toledo Zoo and Aquarium as well as the US Fish and Wildlife Service, University of Toledo, and U.S. Geological Survey in this endeavor. It is encouraging to see so many groups committed to Ohio’s wildlife.”

The Division of Wildlife has also partnered with The Toledo Zoo and Aquarium to restore the eastern hellbender, Ohio’s largest salamander. Together, they are working to propagate, release, and monitor hellbenders with the goal of establishing self-sustaining populations. The Toledo Zoo and Aquarium has also been an integral partner in researching Blanding’s turtles and other species of greatest conservation need.

The donation to The Toledo Zoo and Aquarium comes from funds ODNR received as part of the legal settlement with Monsanto Co. for damages its chemicals caused to Ohio’s fish and wildlife.

The mission of the Division of Wildlife is to conserve and improve fish and wildlife resources and their habitats for sustainable use and appreciation by all. Visit wildohio.gov to find out more.

ODNR ensures a balance between wise use and protection of our natural resources for the benefit of all. Visit the ODNR website at ohiodnr.gov.

Editor's Note: High-resolution version of above image here.