The Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden and Dr Pepper celebrate of 15 years of a partnership to promote conservation awareness through their annual Dr Pepper Vending Machine Art Contest. This year’s theme, “A Future for Pollinators”, challenges Oklahoma students to share their creativity to illustrate a safe future for butterflies, bees and other species that perform the critical role of pollinating plants in nature.
Why is this year’s theme “A Future for Pollinators”? Humans and other animals rely on pollinators to produce nuts and fruits that are essential components of a healthy diet. Meanwhile, the majority of flowering plant species require pollination to produce the seeds that will become the next generation of plants. Oklahoma is an important location for many types of pollinators, especially monarch butterflies. The state is located in the middle of the monarch’s annual migratory path from central Mexico to southern Canada. Each spring, these butterflies leave Mexico and fly northward through Oklahoma in search of milkweed plants on which to lay their eggs. Once hatched, caterpillars feed exclusively on milkweed. Come fall, monarchs funnel back toward Mexico. Along the way, they find refuge in stopover sights with abundant nectar sources and shelter from harsh weather conditions. In the last decade, due to habitat loss and other factors, monarch butterfly populations have plummeted at an alarming rate.
Each of the contest’s two grand prize winners will receive a $300 gift card to a store at OKC Outlets and their design will become the cover of a Dr Pepper machine at the Zoo for an entire year to be admired by an estimated one million guests. Winners from all award categories will receive a certificate and have their designs on display at the OKC Zoo and OKC Outlets. Entries will be judged on creativity, originality, art specifications and relevance to the contest theme.
The OKC Zoo is dedicated to the preservation of wildlife and wild places through local and global conservation partnerships, education, awareness and research. Through funds from Round Up for Conservation, the Zoo supports the Oklahoma Monarch and Pollinator Collaborative, helping implement the statewide conservation plan educating Oklahomans about the importance of protecting and creating habitat for monarchs and other pollinators.
The Zoo is also home to the largest walk-through outdoor butterfly garden in Oklahoma. Located southwest of the Noble Aquatic Center and bordered by Zoo Lake on the east, the Zoo’s butterfly garden is a 20,000 square-foot exhibit designed especially for some of nature's most delicate creatures. This garden is a color and texture extravaganza of more than 15,000 plants fashioned to sustain the complete life cycle of the butterfly. Full color, educational graphics are placed throughout the exhibit highlighting the intricacies of butterflies and their importance in the surrounding ecosystems. Butterfly sculptures by Oklahoma City artist Christie Hackler are also featured throughout the garden.
Official entry forms are available online at www.okczoo.org/drpeppercontest. Students may enter through their school, home school, civic group (e.g. Scouts), or on their own. Entries become property of the Oklahoma City Zoo and must be postmarked by Monday, March 25, 2019. The winning designs will be unveiled during the Zoo’s Earth Day celebration, Party for the Planet, on Saturday, April 20, at 2 p.m. To learn more about this and other happenings, call 424-3344 or visit okczoo.org.