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(Courtesy: Miami-Dade Parks)

PortMiami is the largest passenger port in the world and one of the largest cargo ports in the United States, so it’s no surprise that a lot of different things arrive on its docks from all over the world — including wildlife. Because of their expertise and resources, Zoo Miami is sometimes asked to help agencies with special situations.

Most occurrences are fairly straight forward — people can be unaware of restrictions on plants and animals going through the port, or they don’t file the correct paperwork or have the proper permits. Other cases can involve uninvited animal hitchhikers or even something more nefarious.

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) established the Plant Rescue Center Program in 1978 to care for plants confiscated by the government due to non-compliance with import and export requirements. Since 1988 Zoo Miami has been part of the USFWS Plant Rescue Center Program.

In 2016, Zoo Miami’s Horticulture Department became the temporary stewards of a large confiscation of rare and endangered orchids. The Zoo Miami staff cared for these imperiled and delicate species while authorities dug into the details of the case to determine the appropriate custody and destination of the plants. For the zoo’s staff, it was an extra task in addition to caring for their own botanical collection, which spans 340 acres. However, ensuring the survival of such a rare plant species is at the heart of their mission, so the staff was glad to help.

Zoo Miami’s Departments of Animal Science and Animal Health have also quickly responded by housing, caring and providing appropriate nutritional, social and behavioral needs for various species they have been asked to assist with on short notice.

They do this while still maintaining quarantine conditions to protect the other resident animals at Zoo Miami. Some examples in recent years have included parrots, toucans, marmosets, hyenas, lizards and hundreds of Amazonian fish.

Although they often don’t know the origin, current health condition or the amount of time that these animals have been in transit, animal experts ensure that they are provided with the highest standard of care and an environment that’s as stress-free as possible.  Currently the Zoo Miami Conservation and Research unit is taking the lead from port to park!

As part of the Miami-Dade Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces Department, Zoo Miami takes its mission to encourage an appreciation of the world’s wildlife and conserve it for future generations seriously and serves as a resource for the residents of Miami-Dade County and beyond.

—Dr. Frank Ridgley, Zoo Conservation and Veterinary Services Manager

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Above content provided by Parks-Foundation of Miami-Dade and Miami-Dade Parks & Recreation