Reaching out beyond the gates

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Last week, my friend Julie Scardina, animal ambassador for Seaworld & Busch Gardens, made her final appearance on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno at the helm. It has been widely reported that Jay will make way for a new host later this month, after nearly two decades at the ratings top of late night TV. At last count, Julie (seen regularly on 3TV, too) holds the record, by far, for the number of appearances on the Tonight Show by a zoo professional during Jay's tenure. No doubt Friday's episode must have been bittersweet for her and her team.

Over the years, Wildlife World Zoo & Aquarium has been fortunate to assist well-known zoo personalities like Julie with their appearances on national shows. With the largest collection of exotic animals in Arizona and growing, we've been able to feature a range of animals from baby tortoises to tigers. Such TV programs allow us to extend our mission beyond the zoo gates to promote wildlife and wild places. It's an important mission. To be sure, it enables us to reach out to people that love and visit zoos and aquariums often, but it also helps us touch the hearts and minds of people that will rarely if ever venture to a zoological park.

That's one reason why we regularly appear on KTVK with all sorts of animals. Thanks to 3TV and most importantly to their viewers, we are able each week to promote wild animals to thousands of people. And, while these segments often include an element of fun, (after all, Nature does have a sense of humor) our goal is to inform the public about how the featured animal is doing in the wild and why viewers should care about preserving these species.

Julie Scardina on GMAZ

In order for accredited zoos and aquariums to achieve their mission to conserve, educate, and, provide a fun family-friendly experience, we need the attention, support and goodwill of the entire community-whether they visit our facility or not. Saving the planet is a team endeavor. Zoos and aquariums may help lead the way, but effective conservation of our planet's resources rests with people.

Of course, speaking from personal experience, presenting animals on a national or local show is also a source of pride for our keeper staff and volunteers. True, there's always a lot of preparation that goes into producing just 30 seconds of animal airtime, but it's always a lot of fun for us, too. So, as Jay and his team prepare to take a final bow, we thank them for the years of laughter and the countless hours of attention they devoted to helping wildlife and to caring for animals with positive reinforcement!

Grey Stafford, Ph.D. is the Director of Conservation and Communications at the Wildlife World Zoo & Aquarium and author of the new pet-training book, " ". He appears frequently on 3TV with some of the zoo's fascinating animals.

Wildlife World Zoo & Aquarium, which is located at 16501 W. Northern Ave., Litchfield Park, is open 365 days a year, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Daytime admission is $26.50 (plus tax) for adults and $14.25 (plus tax) for children 3 to 12; children 2 and younger get in free. Special evening admission to the Aquarium only is $16.99 (plus tax) for adults and $8.99 (plus tax) for children 3 to 12. For more information, call 623-935-WILD (9453) or visit .