Cincinnati Zoo Remembers “Martha,” the World’s Last Passenger Pigeon

Posted August 26, 2014

Photo Opportunity – Monday, September 1, at 11 a.m.

Martha_last_passenger_pigeon_1914CINCINNATI – (August 19, 2014) On Monday, September 1, 2014, at 11 a.m. the Cincinnati Zoo will stop and remember “Martha,” the world’s last passenger pigeon, who passed away at the Cincinnati Zoo 100 years ago.  To remember the loss of what was, at one time, the most numerous bird species on the planet, the Cincinnati Zoo is honoring Martha with a memorial renovation and a series of events and lectures. PHOTO OPPORTUNITY – Get a sneak peek of the newly renovated memorial, hear a few words from Cincinnati Zoo Executive Director, Thane Maynard, and witness a pigeon release.

“As visitors walk through the renovated exhibit, from left to right, the hope is that they become inspired to learn more about what they can do to make a difference in species conservation,” said Thane Maynard, Cincinnati Zoo Executive Director. “The loss of the passenger pigeon was a turning point in American history.  For the first time there was no doubt as to the role of people in the extinction of a species.”

The goal of the memorial renovation was not only to update the aging building, which is believed to have housed Martha during her time spent at the Cincinnati Zoo, but also to better tell the story of Martha, her life, death, and the protection and conservation work that followed the species extinction.  One of the signature features of the newly renovated space will be centered in the building – an octagonal case that will contain passenger pigeons carved by Zoo employee and bird trainer, Gary Denzler. “The space has been designed to allow the focus to remain on a positive and very hopeful conservation message and the lessons that can be learned from the story of the passenger pigeon,” said Dan Marsh, Director of Education, at the Cincinnati Zoo.

The original painting, “Martha—The Last Passenger Pigeon,” will also remain at the Cincinnati Zoo. This work of art was painted by John Ruthven, who is often referred to as the “20th Century Audubon” a naturalist, author, lecturer, and internationally acknowledged master of wildlife art.  Ruthven also recently painted a larger-than-life replica in a 7-story mural on Vine Street in downtown Cincinnati.

Today, there are many living examples of learning from the unfortunate extinction of the passenger pigeon. At one time, common species like white-tailed deer and wild turkey were on the same path to extinction as the passenger pigeon. Using the story of the passenger pigeons to convey the importance of conservation and protecting wildlife has already paid off.

The Zoo has planned events leading up to and after the centennial anniversary to remember Martha: (more info here)

  • August 27: The Cincinnati Zoo and the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum have teamed up to host a Twitter chat on Wednesday, August 27, at Noon.  People are invited to follow along using the hashtag #RememberMartha and ask questions.
  • August 29– 30: Ohio Ornithological Society will hold a symposium at the Cincinnati Zoo themed around the passenger pigeon
    • Friday, August 29: “Martinis with Martha” will include guest presentations and a musical performance!  This is a fundraising event that will benefit the Zoo’s Lindner Center for Conservation & Research of Endangered Wildlife.
    • Saturday, August 30: Learn more about the Passenger Pigeon from our great lineup of guest speakers with stories bringing a message of hope for future species and our “lessons learned”, and what you can do to help.
  • August 29 – August 30: Masterworks for Nature Group has Wildlife art on display in the Frisch’s Theater themed around wildlife conservation success stories.
  • September 1:  The newly renovated Passenger Pigeon Memorial is open for a media sneak peek at 11 a.m.  The event, to honor Martha, is to take place at the memorial and will begin with a homing pigeon release.

“Just one question remains, what are we doing today to ensure the survival of wildlife 100 years from now,” said Maynard.