If you’ve ever enjoyed “Gorilla Honey,” you’re part of an important conservation story at Happy Hollow Park & Zoo. In March, Happy Hollow?sent?a?$6,721?donation?to Virunga National Park to support the Fallen Rangers Fund, a safety net for over 150 families of park rangers who gave their lives to protect the last remaining mountain gorillas in the Democratic Republic of Congo.?This gift — which is the latest in a 12-year history of supporting this important cause — was raised from the Zoo’s?Gorilla Honey?sales, an effort spearheaded by Steve?Demkowski, Happy Hollow’s volunteer “Bee Guy.”??
Steve has been keeping bees for over 20 years and has started?a grassroots movement in the San Jose community?to raise?awareness?of?pollinators and how?essential?they are?to our existence.?“We’re grateful to Steve?and?his?amazing group of volunteers,” says Kiersten McCormick, Happy Hollow’s General Manager. “Steve helps us?maintain between 10-35 hives in?the?Happy Hollow apiary throughout the year.”??
Steve?first?became interested in supporting Virunga National Park after attending a fundraiser?at the Park & Zoo?where he learned more about the cause. The?event had a strong impact on him, and he decided to get involved with the cause by extracting, bottling, and selling honey to raise funds and broaden awareness of the plight of the Virunga Rangers.?
“My daughter and I, along with a few Happy Hollow Zookeepers, traveled to Virunga to meet the widows and children of the Fallen Rangers,” says Steve. “We brought our honey there for tasting and did a few honey bee workshops with the Rangers on?‘top?bar’?bee hives. It was an experience I will never forget.”??
Virunga National Park, Africa’s most biodiverse protected area, protects?1/3 of the world’s wild mountain gorillas, over one thousand species of mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians, and provides?a brighter future to more than four million people affected by conflict. The Rangers work to mitigate conflicts and to protect the park against armed militias attacks, habitat destruction, poaching, and civil war.?
“Happy Hollow’s?long-lasting?support for?Virunga?National Park has?totaled over $435,700?since 2009,”?notes?Amy Pizarro,?Executive?Director of Happy Hollow Foundation. “That’s significant, and Steve has played an important role in continuing this legacy. We’re grateful for his dedication?and all he has done to grow?our?conservation?work?– locally and across the globe.”?
Though?the Happy Hollow?Explore & More Store?and?Picnic Basket?are?temporarily?closed?during the current phase of reopening,?Gorilla Honey can be purchased at The?Three Sisters in Willow Glen and Sam’s Downtown Feed & Pet Supply.?100% of the proceeds go to Virunga National Park.