COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Toledo Zoo and Aquarium received $250,000 from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Tuesday to continue its wildlife conservation work.
The zoo received the funds during the release of lake sturgeon, a state-endangered fish, into the Maumee River.
The funds will support the zoo's efforts to restore both lake sturgeon and eastern hellbenders into their natural waterways.
“I am pleased to show our gratitude to The Toledo Zoo and Aquarium for their important work in restoring Ohio’s wildlife,” said ODNR Director Mary Mertz in a news release. “Funds like this enable the zoo to continue conserving at-risk species. Ohio is at its best when all our native species receive the support they deserve.”
Lake sturgeon can grow up to 8 feet-long and weigh 200 pounds as adults. Historically, they spawned in Ohio River and Lake Erie tributaries, but vanished from Ohio by 1971. Recovery is difficult because of the species' long life span and slow reproduction.
The Toledo Zoo and Aquarium has reared young lake sturgeon using Maumee River water and released them each fall with hopes that they’ll return to the river in the future to spawn for several years.
“The Toledo Zoo and Aquarium is very appreciative of this support, and the opportunity to work with partners like the Division of Wildlife,” said Kent Bekker, Senior Vice President and Chief Mission Officer of the Toledo Zoo in a news release. “We are committed to assisting with the recovery of Ohio’s species of greatest conservation need. These funds will benefit several of our projects with those species.”
The Division of Wildlife has also partnered with The Toledo Zoo and Aquarium to restore the eastern hellbender, Ohio’s largest salamander.
“Restoring lake sturgeon to the Maumee River would not be possible without collaboration,” said Division of Wildlife Chief Kendra Wecker. “I’m proud to partner with the Toledo Zoo and Aquarium as well as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, University of Toledo, and U.S. Geological Survey in this endeavor. It is encouraging to see so many groups committed to Ohio’s wildlife.”
The Toledo Zoo and Aquarium has also been an integral partner in researching Blanding’s turtles and other species of greatest conservation need.
The donation to The Toledo Zoo and Aquarium comes from funds ODNR received as part of the legal settlement with Monsanto Co. for damages its chemicals caused to Ohio’s fish and wildlife.