By Mona Blaber

Rick LoBello has been a valued member of the El Paso Group executive committee since 2013.

LoBello is also director of education at El Paso Zoo, striving for the facility to serve education, preservation and scientific needs to conserve endangered and threatened animals.

El Paso Zoo is one of the facilities that helps to house the captive Mexican-wolf population before the wolves can be released in the wild.

“The animals that live there are conservation ambassadors for their species and habitats around the world. Their wild relatives live in the mountains and deserts around El Paso and in faraway lands in South America, Africa and Asia,” LoBello said.

“As you walk through the zoo and learn more about them, it soon becomes clear that many are endangered. Habitat loss and other factors, most often related to the activities of humans, are having a devastating toll on wildlife everywhere.”

LoBello said the zoo is encouraging visitors to round up their purchases at the gift shop, zoo restaurants and food stands to the next dollar to support wildlife field-conservation efforts.

The round-up funds — more than $18,000 so far —go to conservation efforts to help endangered bolson tortoises in New Mexico, African lions in Kenya and Tanzania and critically endangered Sumatran orangutans in Indonesia.

The effort also supports the critically endangered Mexican wolf that used to roam across the Southwest U.S. and northern Mexico, including El Paso. The round-up funds helped the zoo send three teams of employees to help with Mexican-wolf conservation efforts in Arizona, New Mexico and Mexico. Two teams helped repair barbed-wire fences that corral cattle and keep them from wandering into wolf hunting ranges. A third team helped transport a pack of 11 wolves from Washington state to a rendezvous point in New Mexico, where they were met by Mexican officials who took the wolves to a reintroduction site in Mexico.

The wolves were soon released in the wilds of northern Chihuahua, Mexico. It was the 10th release in Mexico, bringing the number of released wolves to 39, with the current wild population estimated to be about 30 wolves.

Next time you visit the zoo, be sure to round up your purchases. Together we can make a difference, even while we experience a part of the world right here in our own backyard.

Volunteer profile: Rick LoBello