WILD Magazine Fall 2023

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September 28 – October 31



The leaves are hinting at a color change. Some mornings, there is a crispness to the air that is not exactly cool, but you can’t help taking a deep breath and releasing it with an “aaaahhhhh...fall is coming.” Any minute, we will start to watch our favorite fall sports, hear the crunching of fallen leaves underfoot and sip our pumpkin spice beverages.

As schools get underway and our beautiful New England fall weather arrives, we encourage grownups to visit the Zoo at a time that is not focused entirely on the kids. We are here, waiting to welcome you. You can spend leisurely moments genuinely observing animal behavior, smelling the flowers, enjoying the landscape, and engaging our keepers, docents, and interpreters in conversation about nature and conservation. When you set the pace, look at and listen to the things that catch your attention, and ask questions about what piques your interest, you never know what you might discover. I am willing to bet that you come away pleasantly surprised at what goes on beneath the surface at your Zoo.

Anticipation for our beloved annual Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular has already begun to build. Displays are being installed, orange twinkling lights and hundreds (soon to be thousands) of pumpkins are already along the path. This year, you will travel the world – as can only be depicted by the master pumpkin carvers who bring you their art. It promises to be a Halloween adventure that blends wildlife and architecture, art and nature, odd and amusing, and maybe just plain spooky. There may even be a display or two that come from out of this world. JOLS is a special, original New England tradition for Roger Williams Park Zoo, and we are proud to bring it to you all through October. It may be imitated but will never be equaled!

As you read this issue of Wild, we invite you to explore the Zoo’s on-site activity and its conservation mission in New England and worldwide. Whether it is a new African aviary, field conservation work that preserves the not-so-creepy American burying beetle, or a jack-o-lantern representing the Eiffel Tower, all of it is possible because you decide it is important. Thank you, and I hope to see you soon in the Zoo.

adopt an animal for your zoo adventurer Support an animal friend of your choice through our Animal Adoption Program.
Adoption fees help contribute to animal care, nutrition and enrichment! adopt me! 

Events & Ongoing Happenings at Zoo & Carousel


•Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular:

September 28 – October 31 / 6:00 – 10:30 PM

•Family Fun Nights at the Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular - Dragons and Princesses:

October 10 and 11 / 6:00 – 8:00 PM

•Scout Family Fun Night at the Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular:

October 18 / 4:30 – 7:00 PM

•Spooky Zoo: October 28 (rain date October 29) / 10:00 AM – 3:00 PM

•Sensory-Friendly Nights at the Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular:

October 23 and 24 / 5:00 – 6:00 PM


•Holiday Lights Spectacular:

November 24 – December 31 / 5:00 – 9:30 PM

•Visit with Santa at Holiday Lights Spectacular:

November 30 / 5:00 – 7:00 PM


•Holiday Lights Spectacular:

November 24 – December 31 / 5:00 – 9:30 PM

•Cardi’s Food Drive:

December 26 / 10:00 AM - 3:00 PM

•Visit with Santa at Holiday Lights Spectacular:

December 7, 14, and 21 / 5:00 – 7:00 PM

HOURS: 9am to 4pm Daily Visit rwpzoo.org for more info

September 28 – October 31 Around the World Around the World Pumpkins Pumpkins

presented by Citizens! Thousands of artistically carved pumpkins will magically transport you to Europe, Africa, Asia and even Route 66. From the Pyramids of Giza to the Tower of Pisa, the Spectacular at Roger Williams Park Zoo will satisfy everyone’s case of wanderlust - no passports required!

Special thank you to longtime sponsor Citizens for making this year’s spectacular glow bright. Their ongoing support allows us to continue this signature event for New England and beyond, allowing you to enjoy this unique tradition.

The Zoo is also grateful for the continuing support from Cardi’s Furniture and Mattresses. Cardi’s supports the Zoo year-round and increases the Zoo’s Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular visibility.

This event would not be a spooktacular success without the support of our incredible sponsors, team of staff, volunteers, carvers, artists, Zoo members and community.

Proceeds from the Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular support the Zoo’s ongoing animal care, education programs and conservation initiatives. Thank you for helping us save wildlife and wild places!


Thank you to our 2023 Sponsors!

Since 2010, Citizens has proudly supported the Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular, and we have watched the event grow by leaps and bounds, bringing joy to millions, both young and young at heart, from near and far.

We are excited to announce that the highly anticipated Citizens Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular returns this fall to the Roger Williams Park Zoo; this year’s theme is centered around Wanderlust. The upcoming celebration promises to be an unforgettable and unique journey of exploration, taking visitors on an exciting odyssey through iconic destinations around the globe. Whether guests are world travelers or homebodies, all can pack their bags to enjoy the visual delight of the trail’s show-stopping pumpkins, carved to illustrate iconic landmarks such as Route 66 and the Pyramids of Egypt.

The Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular continues its legacy as a feast for the senses, an explosion of sights, sounds, colors, and music that illustrates why October is such an extraordinary time in Rhode Island, nowhere more so than here at the Zoo.

Citizens has teamed up with the Zoo this year to host Trick-orTrivia, a four-week Instagram contest open to all. Questions will range in topic, and guests are encouraged to take to their phones and engage online to win a 4-pack of tickets to the Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular that are valid Sunday-Friday. We are thrilled to provide an opportunity for attendees to put their knowledge to the test while fully immersing themselves in this timeless tradition.

Citizens has long admired the artistry, creativity, and talent of the Passion for Pumpkins team, who meticulously carve thousands upon thousands of pumpkins that wow visitors to the Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular year after year. We commend the designers who expertly place these works of art on the Wetlands Trail to make a wildly enthralling experience for all to visit.

We applaud the dedicated Roger Williams Park Zoo staff and organizers of the Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular, who have worked tirelessly to bring one of the most cherished annual events throughout New England to the public in a safe, engaging, and enchanting way.

As we continue our long-standing commitment to the Jack-OLantern Spectacular and the communities we serve, we are confident you’ll enjoy every moment of this unparalleled event, raising funds for the zoo’s animal welfare and conservation initiatives. Have fun, make memories, and put your knowledge to the test! See you on the pumpkin trail!


Contributing to the Conservation of Local Turtle Species

Coming Together to Help Trafficked Turtles

Since 2021, Roger Williams Park Zoo has cared for nearly 75 confiscated turtles from the illegal pet trade. These turtles, which included native Eastern box turtles and Musk turtles, were seized from private dealers found selling turtles illegally online or, in the latest incident, airports like LAX Airport. These confiscations often consist of hundreds of turtles who are often found dehydrated, malnourished, and in many cases, carrying disease.

Roger Williams Park Zoo takes in a portion of the turtles alongside its local partners, Zoo New England, New England Aquarium, and Mystic Aquarium, to properly care for the individual needs of these confiscated turtles. This concerted effort allows each site to provide adequate quarantine space and care needed. These strict quarantine facilities are dedicated to the housing and care of newly confiscated turtles. Turtles need a significant amount of specialized care, especially when they are removed from the natural environments they evolved to thrive in.

Each turtle is given a thorough health exam, which includes testing for relevant diseases and parasites. Thankfully, the collection of rescued turtles currently residing at RWPZoo, while thin and dehydrated, are in better shape than other confiscations and require good husbandry and care until a clean bill of health can be given. These turtles continue to grow steadily in weight and size thanks to the thoughtful care of the Zoo’s veterinary technicians.

DNA samples are submitted to help identify where the turtles may have originated. If that can be confirmed, they’ll be released into their wild home ranges. All turtles will remain in these specialized quarantine facilities until permanent placement is determined.

RWPZoo and SAFE partners are working diligently to establish protocols for responsibly releasing confiscated turtles into the wild and/or integrating them into breeding programs. These programs would benefit long-term conservation by providing young turtles for population augmentation and reintroduction efforts across their native ranges.

North American Freshwater Turtle SAFE

Since 2019, the Zoo has been an active member of the AZA North American Freshwater Turtle SAFE Program, which works collaboratively with AZA partners, state and federal agencies, the Turtle Survival Alliance, the Turtle Conservancy, the Collaborative to Combat the Illegal Trade


in Turtles (CCITT), and countless other conservation organizations.

Though the program addresses all terrapene species, it focuses on five species of North American freshwater turtles: bog turtle (critically endangered), spotted turtle (endangered), wood turtle (endangered), Blanding’s turtle (endangered) and Eastern box turtle (vulnerable).

The SAFE Program continues to generate procedures relevant to the conservation of all species of turtles, including handling practices, increasing holding capacity for confiscated turtles, and the recovery of seized animals whenever possible. “Confiscation to Conservation” is the SAFE goal.

The Future of North American Turtles

Today, regulatory protections for wild turtles are inadequate to help slow down the overall decline of these species. Habitat loss, habitat degradation, and road mortality remain the leading causes of decline. A proactive approach is needed to conserve turtles, including efforts to:

•Restore declining populations through reintroductions and population augmentation.

•Reclaim lost or degraded habitats.

•Mitigate road mortality when possible.

This will require an integrated approach involving field and zoo biologists, veterinarians, federal and state regulators, and wildlife law enforcement officials.

Due to the high demand for North American turtles overseas and the high price they command, illegal trafficking has quickly become the new leading cause of the decline in North American turtle populations, second to habitat loss and degradation. These confiscations number in the thousands annually. At present, both state and federal law enforcement efforts to curtail illegal trafficking of turtles are at a crisis level. Simply put, the numbers seized in illegal trade exceed the capacity of state and federal agencies and cooperating zoos to hold them. This capacity needs to be expanded - this is where RWPZoo is helping to make a difference!

Anyone Can Help Protect Native Turtles

Leave wild turtles wild. Did you know that it is illegal in Rhode Island and many states to remove and possess any native wildlife, including turtles, from the wild without proper permits?

Crossing guard duty. Late May - early June is turtle nesting season. Due to increased habitat loss and development, turtles often cross busy roads to reach their nesting sites. These turtles usually seek out the same egg-laying spots each year and are hard-wired to do so. In most cases, the best thing you can do is to leave them alone. If you notice a turtle in the middle of the road at risk of being hit, the best thing to do (if safe) is to move the turtle off the road in the direction it is heading. Never remove a turtle to relocate it to what you think is a better or safer spot. Turtles have home ranges where they know to locate food, shelter, and nesting sites.



“Knowing how important Velma is to the survival of her species, we have decided to raise the anticipated costs to build her a permanent home.”

African servals are medium-sized felines, native across sub-Saharan Africa, living in savannah and woodland habitats. Their long legs and extraordinary jumping ability enable them to catch birds in flight or sprint to capture small mammals and reptiles as prey. Their large ears allow them to hear their prey moving around the brush before they even see it. Servals are very successful hunters and seldom steal food from others or find the need to eat remains.

The serval’s coat displays a unique mixture of black spots and short stripes over a tawny background. Servals rely on their fur for camouflage as they crouch and stalk their prey in the grassy fields and thick brush of African plains.

Servals lead a mostly solitary existence, and only pair briefly when the female is in heat. Mother servals raise the kittens on their own, including frequently hunting to feed them. Once the young males can hunt independently, they are driven out of the mother’s care. Currently, this species maintains a healthy population in the wild.

Velma the serval and Roger Williams Park Zoo:

The Roger Williams Park Zoo (RWPZ) is an active member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, (AZA) an international professional association and peer-to-peer accrediting body dedicated to the advancement of zoos and aquariums in the areas of conservation, education, science, and recreation.

The Felid Taxon Advisory Group – an expert overseeing AZA’s collaborative management programs for cat species –recently helped coordinate the emergency relocation of more than 75 felines from a distressed private breeding facility in California. The animals ranged from large tigers to tiny sand cats. RWPZ agreed to help, and a serval named Velma was moved from Southern California to Rhode Island this past spring.

Servals are included in the RWPZ 20-year master plan. However, before this rescue effort, the acquisition and exhibit

construction costs were not expected for another few years while other African plains habitats were completed near the zoo’s front entrance. Costs for this exhibit are above and beyond current capital expenditures. Knowing how important Velma is to the survival of her species, we have decided to raise the anticipated costs to build her a permanent home.

As a member of a Species Survival Plan (SSP) species, Velma is recommended to breed although the program has not yet selected a mate. At seven years old, she is near the top age for successfully giving birth to a first litter. Time is a factor, so we have asked to be placed on a priority list for when a suitable male becomes available.

The African proverb, “It takes a village...”, spans many cultures and fundamentally acknowledges and celebrates other people’s role in supporting a common goal; and in the case of a newly acquired serval here at the Roger Williams Park Zoo, we need a village to help build her a new home.

Proposed habitat (netted area on right) will be integrated into African plains, view from adjacent habitat currently with mixed species of Zebras, Wildebeests and Watutsis. Guest pathway, enclosed viewing shows structure with two large windows to view into habitat.
Will you join “Velma’s Village” with a gift to support the emergency construction of a suitable habitat for Velma?

Kids’ Corner Kids’ Corner

Guess Zoo? Can you identify these animals? Answers located on bottom of page.

1 2 3 4 5 6 8 7
Guess Zoo Answers: 1. Cow 2. Crowned Crane 3. Fruit Bat 4. Grizzly Bear 5. Moose 6. Prairie Dog 7. Serval 8. Warthog 9
zoo word search


save the date returns

November 24 - December 31, 2023

New England’s favorite winter tradition is back! Featuring festive, largerthan-life dazzling displays, this year’s event is even bigger and brighter boasting more than 3 ½ million illuminated lights that transform the Zoo into a winter wonderland!

Join us and ring in the season nightly from November 24 through December 31, 2023. Bundle up, grab a hot chocolate, adult beverage, or roast some s’mores and stroll through 40 acres of illuminated pathways. From radiant reindeer to sparkly snowmen, this is a must-see experience this holiday season.

And for the little ones, Santa will be at the Spectacular on Thursday nights, until Christmas. Visits with Santa are free to families who have a samenight ticket for the 5 or 6 pm timeslot only.

Tickets will go on sale mid-October and are available for purchase online only. Information on dates and times and how to purchase tickets can be found at rwpzoo.org/holidaylights


Roger Williams Park Zoo is supported and managed by the Rhode Island Zoological Society and is owned by the City of Providence


Roger Williams Park Zoo Department of Marketing and Public Relations

Corrie Ignagni

Vicki Scharfberg

Maxine Colvin

Designer Sara Beatrice

Tandem Designworks

Photo Credits

Roger Williams Park Zoo

WILD is an online publication of the Rhode Island Zoological Society, Roger Williams Park Zoo, 1000 Elmwood Avenue, Providence, Rhode Island 02907-3659 For membership information call (401) 785-3510 x375 or visit rwpzoo.org.



Patrick T. LeBeau, CFP,® Chair

Nancy Allen, Vice Chair

Sandra L. Coletta, Vice Chair

Margaret Ferguson, Secretary

Maribeth Q. Williamson, Treasurer

Board of Trustees

Martha Bower

Douglas Caniglia

Claire N. Carrabba

Cheryl Cohen

Barbara Cottam

Sarah Denby

Cindy Erickson

Pamela Heffernan

John J. Igliozzi

Elizabeth Rollins Mauran

Damaris Messina

Howard Merten

John J. Palumbo

Steven M. Parente

Karen E. Silva EdD, CHE


Stacey Johnson

Executive Director

Rhode Island Zoological Society/ Roger Williams Park Zoo

Wendy Nilsson

Superintendent of Parks

Providence Parks Department

Chair Emerita Sophie F. Danforth*

Trustees Emeritus

Margaret E. Curran, Esq.

Thomas P. Dimeo*

Jocelin Hamblett

James S. Harper III, VMD*

Bradford B. Kopp

Arthur D. Little

Nancy G.R. Moger

Richard Nadeau

Jane S. Nelson

Cate M. Roberts

Philip A. Segal, Jr.

Robert F. Stoico


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