April 22 is Earth Day, a time to appreciate and work to preserve our planet. Reflecting the values of this global environmental event, the Naples Zoo recently helped the nonprofit Trees for the Future reach a milestone of planting 200 million trees around the world. The zoo aided in planting more than 750,000 of those trees, primarily in Africa. The trees will both restore the soil and give local farmers renewed opportunities for growing crops to sell or use to feed their families. “It’s just a profound difference, not only for the individual, but also when you’re looking at it from an environmental standpoint,” says Tim Tetzlaff, the Naples Zoo’s director of conservation.
Tetzlaff shares how visitors to the zoo can contribute to the program and better understand its environmental benefits below:
The Trees for the Future program, supported by the Naples Zoo, fosters farmers’ long-term investment in caring for the trees and their land. It’s a positive cycle: “If those trees survive, that means a better life for the people who are maintaining those trees,” notes Tetzlaff. Older trees will get a boost from new plantings and have increased capacity to sequester carbon, which is good for our global environment.
Poverty and conservation are also connected, Tetzlaff says, as bringing people out of poverty helps to preserve wildlife. “If somebody can’t feed their family, and they have a chance to poach or to do something negative on the land, feeding your family wins out for every person on the planet,” Tetzlaff explains. “Providing a way for people to be able to take care of themselves provides not only dignity, but also secures a better future for all of us.”
Naples Zoo plants a tree for every student who visits on a field trip and 10 trees for each new or renewed zoo membership. While the zoo’s in-person Earth Day programs are canceled this year, Tetzlaff suggests celebrating at home by planting native trees in your yard. Besides helping the local environment, having a variety of native plants supports migrating birds and other animals.
Tetzlaff emphasizes that the zoo’s work with Trees for the Future isn’t about milestones—every new tree is important. “It’s not just a tree in the ground being celebrated,” says Tetzlaff. “It’s all the lives that have been impacted, as well as the land those lives have to exist on.”