Morgan Burnette, Public Relations Coordinator
I would bet that we’ve all been guilty of it at some point in our lives. Innocently releasing a balloon to float up and infinitely away into the universe and off to Neverland. Or maybe, we’ve been part of a mass balloon release, releasing hundreds of balloons at once in remembrance, celebration, or in the name of charity. The majority of us never bother to think where that balloon will end up once it leaves our sight. Most of us certainly never imagine that the balloon we so innocently released could float for miles, and potentially wind up killing an animal.
The truth of the matter is that even the most well-intentioned, symbolic balloon will eventually fall back down to earth as litter. Balloons have been found thousands of miles, and several continents away from where they were released. Not only does this cause unsightly waste in some of the most pristine places in the world, but animals often mistake balloons as edible food.
Dolphins, whales, turtles, and many other marine species, as well as terrestrial animals such as cows, dogs, sheep, tortoises, birds, horses, and other animals have all been hurt or killed by balloons. The animal is often killed from the balloon blocking its digestive tract, leaving them unable to eat. It slowly starves to death. Animals have also become entangled in the ribbon attached to the balloon and been rendered helpless, unable to move or eat. Sea turtles are particularly at risk because of their fondness for eating jellyfish, which a floating balloon can easily be mistaken for.
Even the “biodegradable” latex balloons can last for years before they break down. This allows plenty of time for it to be eaten by an animal who mistakes it for food or accidentally entangles itself in the ribbon. A simple walk through the woods or along the beach and you are bound to find a balloon of some kind if you’re looking for it. Staff has found them throughout the Park and even in zoo animal exhibits.
Now, I know people aren’t deliberately releasing balloons with the intent to harm animals or even realize that they are littering. That doesn’t change the fact that what goes up, must eventually come down.
This is why Chehaw is going Balloon Free. We would love for you to celebrate your birthday, wedding, or family reunion with us! We love when families choose to spend some of the most special days of their lives out here in the Park! We hope that you can continue to do that without the use of balloons. Kites, paper flowers, flags, and banners are also festive and usually do no harm to the environment.
We hear it all the time, “What can I do to help save animals?” “How can we make sure that this endangered species doesn’t go extinct?” Here is a single, practical way that YOU can help save the lives of animals. Help us protect the environment by not releasing balloons into the air for any reason, and being careful to avoid accidental releases. This simple step can have a very positive impact. If even one animal is saved by one less balloon in the environment then we have something to smile about!