What a Zoo: Karner Release

TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - Last week, the Toledo Zoo released a group of butterflies as part of a conservation project to help the Karner butterflies survive.

That project involves the Zoo raising them, and then releasing them.

Kent Bekker, Director of Conservation and research with the Zoo explains, "For about 20 years, the Toledo Zoo has been on the forefront of re-introducing the Karner Blue Butterfly to the Oak Savanna Habitat in western Lucas County."

That effort includes harvesting healthy individuals, and raising their offspring.

Bekker tells 13abc, “We collect animals under US Fish and Wildlife permit out of Michigan, a healthy population, we reproduce them here at the Zoo, and during their second flight of the season, we release into a new habitat here in northwest Ohio."

That release happened last week. So far this season, they've added 50 to the local population.

Bekker says, "Our ability to help with those efforts to re-introduce the Karner Blue is an indication that the landscape in Lucas County has returned to what it was historically."

In fact, he says that since the Zoo started working to conserve the species, it's found to be thriving here in northwest Ohio, which is good news for local biodiversity. And he says that even though populations are protected on nature conservancy properties, local residents help in the effort too.

“There's a lot that private residents can do, not necessarily to benefit the Karner, but other native butterflies by planting native plants in your backyard and creating habitats in your backyard on a finer scale is beneficial."

He says that purple cone flowers and black eyed Susans are some Ohio-native plants that provide good habitats.

Bekker says that the Zoo plans to release more Karner Butterflies later this summer. In total, they expect to release 100 hundred of them this season.