A screening of the 2015 documentary “Red Wolf Revival” Thursday will help raise funds and awareness for red wolf conservation efforts.
In addition, the movie’s director and two red wolf experts from Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium will take part in a panel discussion on this endangered species.
Fewer than 50 red wolves are thought to remain in the wild. Once found across much of what is now the eastern United States, only 14 red wolves remained by 1980.
The zoo, working with the Fish and Wildlife Service, led the effort to save the red wolf species from extinction nearly four decades ago.
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50 The estimated number of red wolves now living in the wild.
When the zoo offered to lead a recovery effort, the 14 wolves were brought to Tacoma to start a managed breeding program. By 1987, the red wolves were reintroduced to the wild in North Carolina.
In addition to the estimated 50 red wolves in the wild, there are now about 200 at some 40 participating wildlife facilities.
The red wolf recovery plan, which the zoo remains a part of, is under scrutiny by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The federal agency is to decide later this year whether to continue reintroduction of the species into the wild, according to a news release.
The panel will include director Roshan Patel, the zoo’s red wolf program supervisor Will Waddell, and the zoo’s public programs and visitors studies coordinator Craig Standridge. Gary Geddes, director of zoological and environmental education for Metro Parks Tacoma, will be the master of ceremonies.
“The Point Defiance Zoo breeding program for red wolves has been – and remains – a flagship conservation program for us,” zoo deputy director John Houck said in the news release. “It long has been considered one of the most successful conservation efforts in North America, and we have been extremely proud of our participation in this effort.”
The Fish and Wildlife Service is expected to decide in September whether to end the recovery program, which would end protection for the wild red wolves now living in the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina.
Patel and film producer Susannah Smith on Wednesday will discuss red wolf conservation efforts with students of Tacoma’s Science and Math Institute.
The film, being shown at the Grand Cinema in Tacoma, looks at the wolf population that has been reintroduced to eastern North Carolina, where the recovery effort has been controversial.
Patel, of Bozeman, Montana, said he saw a need for a film to bring attention to the red wolf story because few people know about the controversy.
“It’s a useful way to tell that story, and it’s a very interesting story,” he said. “As I learned about it, I felt more and more shocked that it wasn’t more widely covered.
“There are definitely those camps of people who want the program shut down and there are conservationists who definitely do not want that to happen,” he said. “But we found that most people are actually in between. They want wolves but want ways for it to compromise and work with people and be able to continue.”
Standridge, who worked as a park ranger in western North Carolina for 3 ½ years, said he never knew red wolves existed while he was working there. He discovered the wolves when he got his new job in Tacoma in 2003.
“Once I learned about their story, I was mystified and flabbergasted that I never knew while working there,” he said. “Clearly this shows a great problem of awareness.”
“They are one of the most endangered animals in the world, they are native to North Carolina, and I knew nothing about the Red Wolf Breeding Program, nothing about that story, so I wasn’t telling park visitors that story.”
The program review was prompted by the Wildlife Resource Commission in North Carolina asking the Fish and Wildlife Service to remove red wolves from the wild and declare them extinct, Standridge said.
He hopes to raise awareness through events like the film’s screening.
“We believe that most people don’t even know they’re there and I can attest to that from my time in North Carolina,” he said. “I want people to know that these majestic, beautiful, endangered animals are there and they are in danger. So we are asking people to take action.”
If you go
The documentary will be shown at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Grand Cinema, 606 S. Fawcett Ave., Tacoma. The suggested donation is $10 per adult and $5 per student.
For more information, go to pdza.org/save-red-wolves.