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Keeper’s Corner
Respecting the Earth's Rainforests
By Kayla Krajna

Rainforest-animals-11102M&TBank Rainforest Falls is a bustling exhibit at the Buffalo Zoo. As animal keepers in the Rainforest, our days are very full. Due to the wide variety of species and multi-species exhibits in the Rainforest, from caiman and vampire bats to primates and anteaters, there is so much for us to learn. We have our own ecosystem here, and it is incredibly rewarding to be a part of it.
With more than 100 animals living in Rainforest Falls, I learn something new about the animals every day—not only about the natural behaviors they would exhibit in the wild, but also about each of them as individuals. Each and every animal has a unique personality. The intelligence and awe-inspiring traits they possess are remarkable.
When I walk into the Rainforest each day, I feel as if I am walking into someone else's home. Being a zookeeper is so much more than just feeding and taking care of the animals. It's about respecting them because I am in their home. These animals allow keepers into their lives, and we become part of their world.
Being able to see the animal-to-animal interaction and participate in the animal-to-keeper interaction is a privilege. It's not a one-way connection. We can take care of them, and there is so much they can teach us.
Being immersed in this tropical ecosystem created here in Buffalo has given me an even greater appreciation and respect for the cycle of life in the rainforest. The natural ecosystems in the tropical rainforests of the world, specifically the South American rainforest, are home to more biodiversity than any other ecosystem on earth. We must do all we can to value and protect those systems.
Renowned primatologist, Dian Fossey, once wrote, "When you realize the value of all life, you dwell less on what is past and concentrate more on the preservation of the future."
The rainforest is severely threatened by human activity. Deforestation for commercial logging is a primary concern. This is tied into area agriculture. Large sections of the rainforest are being cleared for both cattle ranching and planting food crops. This affects the human race and causes the loss of biodiversity—it affects the entire circle of life.
There is still so much to discover and learn from the tropical rainforests. The greatest fear of many environmentalists is that the rainforests will all be gone before we can learn some of their truest secrets. Pharmaceutical researchers are constantly discovering new drugs and cures from plants in the rainforest. Research is currently being done to find treatments for infections and viruses, and even cancer and AIDS.
Encouraging the use and reuse of environmentally safe resources will have a positive impact on the rainforest conservation. Protecting the rainforest and maintaining the balance of life will, in turn, protect the planet's overall health.
"TREES" is a concept and acronym originally devised to teach the elementary school audience, but it puts forth a set of principles for saving rainforests we all can embrace:

•TEACH others about the importance of the environment and how they can help save rainforests.

•RESTORE damaged ecosystems by planting trees on land where forests have been cut down.

•ENCOURAGE people to live in a way that doesn't hurt the environment.

•ESTABLISH parks to protect rainforests and wildlife.

•SUPPORT companies that operate in ways that minimize damage to the environment.

The adoption of these simple principles, coupled with the passion of individuals who want to make a difference, can help us take care of this earth and respect it.
I hope that we can all come to realize that the rainforests of the world are home to one of the most remarkable and breath-taking ecosystems on this planet.
Concentrating on the preservation of the future is crucial to us and our planet. The earth sustains humans, as well as thousands of plant and animal species. We need to work together to protect it and all of its inhabitants.

Kayla Krajna joined the Buffalo Zoo's keeper team in 2009. She cares for all of the animals in M&T Bank Rainforest Falls..

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