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Did You Know?BY KATHY BANFIELD SHAWtion of Zoos and Aquariums-accredited zoos to improve the genetics and sur- vivability of threatened and endangered species. I learned this when I talked to Leslie Walsh, the manager of marketing and development at our own Binder Park Zoo.the animals that stay outside during Mich- igan’s winter temperatures. You may not see a giraffe (they are from the warmer climates of sub-Saharan Africa) but you can look for the Snow Leopard (who’s from the Siberian region of Asia). When the Zoo opens again in April of 2020 you can look forward to Hops with the Pops and the Cheetah Chase in June. As Leslie says, “You never outgrow the Zoo.”To say Leslie is a fan of the zoo is an understatement. “No two days are the same,” Leslie says of her job. “I enjoythe variety, the complexity of my job.It’s challenging but very satisfying. I am always learning, making connections, and solving problems.”She told me the story of how the zoo was the dream of community members who believed that Battle Creek deserved a zoo... so they built one! Leslie also told me that of the 233 zoos across the United States, Binder Park Zoo is one of only four that don’t receive any tax-dollar money... be it federal, state, or local. It’s up to the zoo to fund the zoo...and of course those of us who believe, as Leslie does, “...that the zoo is an inspiration worth the price of admission.” She takes the lead in the special event Corks for Conservation every July. It’s a fundraiser that is also intended to appeal to different audiences. As Leslie says, “This place is a gem and it belongs to the community.” All the special events are designed toLeslie has a full time staff memberto assist her in marketing the zoo whichto her is, “...telling the story of the zoo.” A portion of that story are the programs available which include safari day camps for child,ren entering 1st through 7th grade or the overnight safari for groups from scouts to private parties. In addition to the programs there are events hap- pening throughout the year. Beginning just after Thanksgiving until just before Christmas you can enjoy Zoo Lights every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evening. You can stroll through the park to enjoyBy the way, after twisting her arm she told me the three Cheetah sisters were her favorite animals in the park, “They are just such amazing animals... built for speed... and they have the most adorable faces,” Leslie said with a smile.6 SCENE 4411 I CHARITABLE ISSUEDid you know that nearly 45 spe- cies at Binder Park Zoo are part of the Species Survival Plans (SSP)? SSPs are coordinated efforts between all American Associa-attract people who don’t already have the zoo on their places-to-visit list.Believe it or not, Leslie has a life out- side of the zoo. She lives in Marshall with her husband Dan (a native of Marshall). She graduated from Western Michigan University after changing her major from arts to communication. She realized work- ing at a draft table wasn’t going to feed her social side so she worked in sales and advertising until her first child was born. After Christopher (now 30 and living in New York) and Aimee (now 28 and living in Chicago) were raised Leslie went back into sales and advertising. It was an adfor the marketing manager at Binder Park Zoo just over five years ago that led her to acquire the job she now has. Along with husband Dan, Leslie enjoys traveling to their get-away up north, and visiting local restaurants with friends and family. “I love living in West Michigan and especially in Calhoun County,” Leslie told me. “I live at the intersection of I-94 and I-69... I can get anywhere from there. And the people are so focused... no matter the challenge they come together to figure it out.”Leslie WalshMost days you can find Leslie at the zoo... probably taking someone like me on a train ride or introducing them to Erica, the southern ground hornbill.

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