What Goes Up, Must Come Down.
Last month, Rosamond Gifford Zoo staff found 6 burned sky lanterns throughout the zoo, in trees, exhibits, pools and on pathways. While no damage was caused by these potential hazards, not all zoos have been so lucky. Sky lanterns have become a popular symbolic gesture in recent years to celebrate events, holidays and memorials. These lanterns are constructed of an oiled paper body, a bamboo hoop, wire supports and a fuel cell, usually a small candle. The candle is lit, causing hot air to rise into the body, and the lantern is set afloat in the night sky with no control over where it lands. This past New Year’s Eve, the Krefeld Zoo in Germany experienced just how dangerous these lanterns can be, when more than 30 primates, birds and fruit bats died after their barn was set alight by a sky lantern.
Because sky lanterns can be carried for miles by the wind before floating back to Earth, they also pose a real threat to habitat for many wild animals. In areas experiencing drought or dry season, just one lantern is enough to ignite a wildfire which destroys habitat, depletes food sources and drives animals out of their native ranges. Amur Leopards are directly affected by wildfires, which cause a loss of prey species and drastically changes their preferred forested landscapes to grasslands. Even if the lantern is extinguished by the time it comes back down, there is still litter created by the lantern, which could pose a risk of ingestion or entanglement for wild animals, much like waste from balloons and plastic confetti.
While these lanterns are beautiful, they are dangerous and illegal in the state of New York unless they are anchored to the ground. Some safer alternatives to sky lanterns include, bubbles, luminaries and confetti alternatives such as bird seed, flower petals and dried leaves.
Check out this link to learn more about sky lantern alternatives.