We can do BIG things thanks to you!

Dakota skipper hatching at the ZooBe it rhinos or butterflies, the Minnesota Zoo is for the Big and the Small. With your support, we are doing big things for some of our smallest creatures. This past summer, hundreds of Zoo guests donated $1, $2, or more to help save Minnesota’s imperiled prairie butterflies. Long-time Zoo supporter, Aveda, kindly matched these donations dollar-for-dollar up to $10,000. Collectively, we raised $28,755! Wow!

These funds are supporting the important work of our Prairie Butterfly Conservation Program. We are incredibly grateful, and want to update you about what we’re working on and the BIG successes we celebrated this year!

Mature Dakota skipper caterpillar reared at the ZooThe Minnesota Zoo works to save Minnesota’s most imperiled native butterflies, like the Poweshiek skipperling  and Dakota skipper. After disappearing from most of their ranges in recent decades, these two orange prairie butterflies were added to the U.S. Endangered Species list as “Endangered” and “Threatened” this October. The Zoo is establishing the world’s first and only conservation breeding populations for Dakota skippers to provide insurance against the risk of extinction. Our Zoo populations could also be a source for possible future reintroductions back into their historic prairies.

Our breeding program marked some BIG milestones this summer. We celebrated the first rearing of Dakota skippers from eggs collected in July 2013 through to adulthood in July 2014 behind the scenes at the Zoo. Even more exciting, we were then able to breed some of these adults and produce another generation! A critical step in the breeding program, we are pretty sure that this is the first time anyone has ever reared and bred more than one generation of Dakota skippers in human care!

First male Dakota skipper reared from egg to adulthood at the ZooAlong with many partners, we are also studying why populations of these and many other butterflies are declining. We surveyed butterflies at more than a dozen prairies in Minnesota and North and South Dakota this summer, and recorded habitat conditions. Partnering with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, we collected samples from four prairies to study the possible exposure of prairie butterflies to insecticides. We are studying the genetics of Poweshiek skipperling and Dakota skippers to learn how populations are related and how they are different. We are working on pollinator conservation beyond butterflies by providing tips on how everyone can help, like planting native plants and avoiding pesticides. Also supported by the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund, the Legacy Amendment, and an awesome field vehicle from Morrie’s Auto Group, we are doing a lot. Donations from Zoo guests and Aveda allow us to do so much more!

The Minnesota Zoo works every day to save wildlife around the world, and we can’t do it without your BIG support! Don’t worry!  Visit the Zoo now until next summer and donate at the gate to help highly endangered Asian wild horses through the True Wild Horse: Forever Free campaign!