Smithsonian Zoo active conservationist, too

By Spencer Ball and Molly Mueller
Online Editor and Online Executive Sports Editor
The pursuit of journalism is that of the incessant need to report fact and inform the public, whether it be about a topic of crucial and urgent importance or simple tales of intrigue.
Jane Scholz knew this life all too well, starting the pursuit as a lowly writer on The Journal Gazette in Fort Wayne, Ind., into becoming the president and publisher of the Post-Tribune, which serves the greater northwest Indiana area.
Such a lifestyle, however, can take its toll upon those who decide to chase it, and in the case of Scholz, she understood this anxiety and the taxation all too well. In order to cope with the stressors of everyday life, Scholz found solace in her journalistic world through an uncommon method: going to the zoo.
“Being with animals was very relaxing,” Scholz said. “It was a nice way to unwind. I’m retired now, so stress really isn’t [an issue] anymore, but I still [visit the zoo].”
In fact, Scholz enjoyed her time relaxing in zoos so much that she decided to take up a volunteer position at the Smithsonian National Zoo and has been an active informant to zoo patrons for nine years now, applying her inherent love to inform the public in a manner involving a worry free interest.
Being the journalist she is, Scholz thinks that the most appealing aspect of zoos, especially the Smithsonian, is that they give back to the community through educational opportunities, such as the Friends of the National Zoo (FONZ) group hosted at the Smithsonian zoo.
In FONZ, patrons are able to take part in environmental and animal conservation efforts, from volunteering to informing other patrons of ways to help the cause. The work done by FONZ is similar to that of the environmental club at Prospect High School, which frequently holds meetings and seminars about ways students can help conserve, from energy alternatives to cleaning out local ponds to preserve wildlife.
According to avid zoo visitor Vivianne Peckham, the Smithsonian Zoo offers a wide array of education to its patrons; however, she feels that the zoo’s recent inclusion of the bison exhibit was a detriment to the education offered, in that the funds needed for the bison were achieved through the closing of Invertebrate House, which, according to Peckham, was the, “canary in the coal mine,” for education because of the immense importance invertebrates serve in the preservation of ecosystems.
Scholz’s history as a journalist also allowed her to aspire to be well versed in the status of the endangerment of her most frequently volunteered positions, the elephants.
According to Scholz, the Asian elephant has, in the past 50 years, experienced a population decrease from 200,000 to 30,000, and this was all a result of the increase in palm oil plantations (see “Palm Oil” in the palm of your hand), which slowly crept through the elephant’s habitat, killing them in the process.
“A lot of the time, we think, ‘well, these [elephants] are … a long, long way away and [their endangerment] has nothing to do with us,’ but that is not true,” Scholz said. “When you walk down the supermarket aisle, almost all packaged food you see comes from [palm oil]. When the habitat goes, the animals go, too.”

Click here to visit a photo album from the zoo!