By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – The Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden will host two family-friendly events to raise awareness and funds for monarch butterfly conservation. Presented by Bob Moore Subaru, the second annual Monarch Madness 5K/Fun Run and Monarch Festival will be held on Saturday, October 6.
The 5K will begin at 8 a.m. The 1-mile Fun Run/Walk starts at 8:15 a.m. Check-in starts at 6 a.m. for both events. The Festival will follow these two events.
According to the Center for Biological Diversity, the Monarch butterflies population is estimated to have declined up to 80 percent over the last 20 years due to habitat loss and pesticide use. \
“The plight of the monarchs and other pollinators is not widely known and the Oklahoma City Zoo is committed to changing that,” said Dr. Rebecca Snyder, curator of conservation and science. “Pollinators are critical to agricultural production and to vibrant ecosystems,’ Snyder added. “The Zoo will continue to raise awareness about this critical species through events like Monarch Madness that are fun and engaging while contributing to an important cause.”
Unlike other 5K runs, Monarch Madness is an officially timed run that includes a course simulating the over 2,000 mile journey monarchs take from Canada to Mexico with themed stops along the way.
Runners will enjoy “flying” through Oklahoma City’s Adventure District, Zoo Lake park and crossing the finish line in front of the Zoo.
The Zoo also encourages runners to come dressed in butterfly costumes and accessories for this event. A limited number of costume butterfly wings will available for runners and supporters to purchase at packet pick-up and day-of at the Zoo.
All participants will receive a t-shirt, timed bib number, a finisher medal and free general admission into the Zoo that day.
Registration is $40 for adults and $30 for kids. Registration packets can be picked up at the Zoo the morning of the race or on Friday, Oct. 5 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Red Coyote Running and Fitness at 5720 N Classen Blvd. in Oklahoma City. To register, click here.
Following the Fun Run, festivities will continue with the Monarch Festival from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. The goal of the festival is to educate Zoo guests about the decline of monarchs and to inspire them to take action to save this iconic species by learning how to attract them to public gardens, neighborhoods or their own backyard.
Festival activities are free with Zoo admission and will take place in the entry plaza and around the Zoo’s Butterfly Garden, a 20,000 square-foot habitat designed to host monarchs and other pollinators.
The zoo venue is the largest walk-through outdoor butterfly garden in Oklahoma. It boasts a collection of more than 15,000 plants fashioned to sustain the complete life cycle of butterflies.
Several conservation organizations including the Myriad Botanical Gardens, Martin Nature Park Center and Oklahoma Garden Clubs, will provide information and activities for guests of all ages.
Over forty organizations, including the Zoo, have teamed up to form the Oklahoma Monarch and Pollinator Collaborative, called Okies for Monarchs. The organization’s goal is to encourage the planting of monarch-friendly plants along the species’ migration route.
Oklahoma cities are taking the initiative to plant wildflowers along highways and to replace native trees and flowers after major construction projects. As part of this effort, the Zoo recently awarded three grants to Oklahoma elementary schools to establish their own monarch gardens and to train teachers on how to incorporate their new gardens into their science classes.
As part of the OKC Zoo’s commitment to conserving monarch butterflies, its education department will be hosting Monarch Butterfly Tagging opportunities daily through October 6, from 1-3 p.m., weather permitting.
During the Monarch Madness 5K/Fun Run and Festival, volunteers are needed to help in a variety of roles. They will receive service hour documentation and two admission tickets to the OKC Zoo for their time. Those interested in volunteering can email [email protected].
In addition, now through Dec. 16, a National Geographic Photo Ark Exhibition by photographer Joe Sartore is on display at the Patricia and Byron J. Gambulos ZooZeum.
Zoo hours of operation are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Regular admission is $11 for adults and $8 for children ages 3-11 and seniors ages 65 and over. Children two and under are admitted free.
To learn more about Monarch Fun Run and Festival and other happenings, call 405-424-3344 or visit okczoo.org.