400 songs, 400 tigers: Top honors to the Zoo for “Endangered Song”

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Sumatran tiger Damai at the National Zoo (Photo by Mehgan Murphy)

Sumatran tiger Damai at the National Zoo (Photo by Mehgan Murphy)

The Association of Zoos and Aquariums announced in September that the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute received Top Honors in marketing for budgets under $175,000 for their Endangered Song Project.

The Endangered Song Project was an analog-meets-digital awareness campaign that called upon 400 participants to use their social media strength to spread the message that there are only 400 Sumatran tigers left in the wild.

The Zoo partnered with Atlantic Records’ indie rock band “Portugal. The Man” to distribute a previously unreleased song titled “Sumatran Tiger.” The song was lathe-cut onto 400 custom polycarbonate records designed to degrade after a certain amount of plays. With no other copies in existence, the 400 participants were tasked with digitizing and sharing the song through their social channels with the hashtag #EndangeredSong. “Breeding” the song socially helped save it from extinction, thus raising awareness about the critically endangered Sumatran tigers and need for conservation efforts.

With less than 400 left in the wild, Sumatran tigers are at risk of being the next subspecies of tiger to go extinct. Listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, these majestic creatures are found in forests in Sumatra. The two major threats to Sumatran tigers are habitat loss and poaching. Deforestation increases the chances of tiger–human conflict.

The Zoo’s Sumatran tigers participate in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan. The SSP makes breeding recommendations for tigers in accredited zoos to preserve their genetic diversity. Those tigers serve as an insurance population for the approximately 400 wild Sumatran tigers. The National Zoo has bolstered the Sumatran tiger population in human care to date with 15 cubs.

Visit www.endangeredsong.si.edu for more information about becoming involved in the project.

In addition, these Zoo staff were recognized by the AZA for their years of dedication to conservation:

  • Dr. Erika Bauer, 5 years with the Behavior Advisory Group
  • Sara Hallagher, 5 years with the Avian Scientific Advisory Group
  • Sara Hallagher, 10 years with the Struthioniformes Taxon Advisory Group
  • Steve Sarro, 20 years, African Penguin Species Survival Plan
  • Katherine Volz, 10 years, Persian Onager Species Survival Plan

Posted: 2 October 2015
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