In an effort to promote community engagement among Hodges University students, faculty, staff and alumni, the university has established Panther Pride.
In partnership with the Naples Zoo, Panther Pride officials and volunteers will work to support panther conservation efforts in Southwest Florida.
Inspired by an article featuring University of Missouri students working together to support conservation efforts for the Bengal tiger, which is their school mascot, Hodges’ Dean of Students, Dr. Marcia Turner, presented a similar idea to Hodges University officials.
“Since our mascot, Hugo, is a panther, and since these animals are an endangered species, our efforts will be focused on panther conservation here in Southwest Florida,” said Turner.
Hodges’ Chief Marketing Officer Karen Grebing agreed with the idea, saying, “I believe supporting panther preservation is an excellent [project] choice. It is a very worthwhile cause that easily fits with our university mascot and will be a wonderful story to tell.”
Grebing contacted Marci Seamples, the zoo’s director of development, to find out ways Hodges could help in conservation efforts.
“After speaking with Karen, we immediately began working to schedule a meeting with Panther Pride committee members to discuss opportunities for Hodges and the Naples Zoo to work together on raising awareness about panther conservation through volunteer opportunities and community engagement,” said Seamples.
The Naples Zoo houses the only Florida panther, which is named Uno. Uno arrived at the Naples Zoo in December 2014 after being shot and left to die. Rescued in October 2014 by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation biologists, Uno, who was left blinded as a result of his injuries, received proper care and treatment at the Animal Specialty Hospital of Florida and Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo before arriving at Naples Zoo.
“Hodges University serves so many portions of the population, and many of the people at Hodges who are pursuing a higher degree are already working within the community. They can easily share information with others and that is useful for us,” Seamples explained.
Educating drivers on the importance of slowing down to prevent panther fatalities on the road, as well as allowing parents to educate their children about panthers and preservation efforts are just some of the ways Seamples sees the Hodges University community playing a role in saving the Florida panther.
“This is an effort that is happening very close to home. It is important that we have volunteers who can tell the story of the Florida panther,” she added.
With the creation of Panther Pride, Hodges and Naples Zoo officials plan to coordinate various opportunities for members of the Hodges community to educate, volunteer and be a part of panther conservation efforts in our area.
“We encourage students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends of Hodges University to join the Panther Pride team at one of our upcoming events,” said Turner.
On Saturday, November 5, Naples Zoo will host the Florida Panther Festival. In its fifth year, the family friendly event will include presentations in Safari Canyon focusing on panthers and conservation efforts, as well as talks from wildlife experts who will discuss pythons, bears, coyotes and alligators.
Guests will also have the opportunity to participate in “walking the panther mile” through the Gordon River Greenway Park and there will be a field trip to the Bear Island Unit of Big Cypress National Preserve from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, November 6.
Hodges University is requesting volunteers from our student and alumni community to assist in conducting surveys to guests who arrive for the festival. Volunteers will be stationed at the entrances and exits.
Visit www.floridapantherfestival.com for complete details. For more information on the Panther Pride organization, contact Nicole Roe at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about Uno and panther conservation in Florida, visit www.napleszoo.org.