It’s that time of year again where we take a look back on all the things we’ve been able to accomplish with the help of our partners and our guests. 2022 was a big year for Fossil Rim, one that saw our staff traveling the world, completing projects here at home and more. None of this would have been possible without the support of people like you who visit Fossil Rim and donate to support our mission of conserving wildlife. We would like to extend a genuine thank you, and we look forward to continuing this mission in 2023!
Releasing Endangered Peninsular Pronghorns
At the start of the year, staff from Fossil Rim had the opportunity to help reintroduce members of North America’s native antelope, the pronghorn, to their natural habitat. Along with teams from San Diego Zoo Safari Park, the Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens and the El Paso Zoo, as well as the Peninsular Pronghorn Recovery Project (PPRP), the National Commission of Natural Protected Areas (CONANP) Mexico, and local land managers in Mexico, the teams worked together to reintroduce eight radio-collared pronghorn antelope onto a preserve in Baja California Sur. This species is endangered, and although its three subspecies were once abundant across the continent, their numbers have dwindled dramatically in recent years. This radio collar project will not only allow researchers to track the habits and movements of these antelope, but provide valuable information that will aid in future reintroductions and the conservation of the species as a whole.
New Members of Vulnerable Species
This year was a great year for two species at Fossil Rim: the black-footed cat (BFC) and the American red wolf. Not only were two healthy BFC kittens born to first-time mom, Bandit, but one of our red wolf pairs gave birth to our first surviving pup since 2007. American red wolves are extremely endangered, with less than 20 members of the species in the wild today. The new pup, Rue, has been growing steadily and healthily, and has bolstered our determination to help recover this once functionally extinct wolf. As for the BFC kittens, they too are growing strong, and just as feisty as their mom. Fossil Rim is a member of the Black-Footed Cat Species Survival Program, which means these two new additions will help to expand their population in the future.
Another Good Year for Attwater’s Prairie Chickens
For years now Fossil Rim has been part of the effort to restore Attwater’s prairie chickens to their native Texas habitat. These birds are critically endangered, with less than 200 wild birds left in 2021. However, those numbers are increasing thanks to breeding facilities, and this year we were able to send nearly 300 birds to be released onto a refuge in Houston. Our birds did very well this year, with a high number of eggs and a high percentage of survivability. Breeding prairie chickens is a fragile endeavor, so we’re very grateful for those who donate and help us to restore their wild numbers.
Moving Antelope Across the World
Speaking of releases, Fossil Rim team members once again had the opportunity to work with Sahara Conservation Fund and travel to Chad, Africa to introduce scimitar-horned oryx and dama gazelle to their native habitat. This trip was especially eventful because the team was able to test out a method of transporting the fragile dama gazelle without using crates to contain them. Rather, the antelope were sedated and carried to their destination aboard small passenger planes. Although this may seem more complicated than simply crating the animal, this method is much less stressful, and contributes to the safety and ease of introduction to a new location. Both the scimitars and the damas have struggled to survive in their native land for a variety of reasons, so the introduction of members of other populations is important to introduce genetic diversity and increase wild numbers.
This year wasn’t just about animals, but also guests! Our Environmental Engagement team worked hard the past few years to overhaul our education programs and create new, fun activities for schools, scout groups and more. Not only were hundreds of students able to come out and participate in a variety of classes, but events like our evening Twilight TWANG tours and photo workshops were reintroduced. Education is one of the pillars of our mission, and we are very excited to continue bringing updated formats and information about conservation to our guests and the wider public in 2023.
Rhino Research Projects
Another aspect of our conservation includes research that can help us find new ways to care for wildlife. Fossil Rim has had the opportunity to participate in a large scale rhino study known as the AIRS Project. This project, which stands for American Institute of Rhinoceros Science, involves studying many aspects of white and black rhino health and behavior. At Fossil Rim, our rhinos were observed every day to track behaviors, monitored by activity devices to track movement and had consistent blood draws to compare vitals. While these are just a few aspects of the project, all of this data is being combined with that from several other facilities to give us a better understanding of rhinos and how we care for them. You’ll almost certainly be hearing more about this ongoing project in the future.
Finally, 2022 was a big year for sustainability at Fossil Rim. Not only did we have a great harvest from our hay fields, but we are once again working with Glen Rose ISD to collect their lunch scraps for our compost pile. This compost is made in-house using animal waste, and returns to our pastures to nourish both hay and native grasses. This year we also began to phase out the plastic feed cups guests receive their animal feed in. We now craft our own feed cones by recycling the bags the feed comes in. Finally, Fossil Rim joined with both Eden Green Technology and PlantSwitch to continue our green initiatives. Eden Green is a hydroponic farming facility that donates their excess greens to feed our animals and guests. PlantSwitch creates fully biodegradable cutlery and other restaurant items made from agave. Both of these partnerships have helped move us closer to our goal of becoming as sustainable as possible.
These are only some of the many things Fossil Rim was able to accomplish this year thanks to your generosity. If you are interested in donating materially or monetarily to our organization, visit this page to learn more. Every time you visit, the proceeds return to our facility for the conservation of the species you’re seeing. Once again, we want to extend a sincere thank you to all of the conservationists like you who help keep places like Fossil Rim alive.