New Orleans,
11:43 AM

Audubon Nature Institute and Partners  Recognized for Collaborative Whooping Crane Conservation Program

Audubon Nature Institute and three other organizations accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums have been recognized with a prestigious national award for their ongoing work in rescuing the whooping crane - North America's most endangered native bird - from the brink of extinction.

The Association of Zoos and Aquariums has bestowed its 2016 North American Conservation Award to Audubon and its partner agencies for the Whooping Crane Recovery Program.The annual award recognizes exceptional efforts toward regional habitat preservation, species restoration and support of biodiversity in the wild.

Audubon Nature Institute shared the honor with the Calgary Zoo, the International Crane Foundation and the San Antonio Zoo.

"The Calgary Zoo, International Crane Foundation, the San Antonio Zoo and Audubon Nature Institute are leaders in protecting North American wildlife,'' said Keith Winsten, director of the Brevard Zoo and chair of AZA's Honors and Awards Committee.

"Conservation is a high priority for these facilities, as well as for all AZA-accredited aquariums and zoos and this award provides well-deserved national recognition to the Calgary Zoo, International Crane Foundation, the San Antonio Zoo and Audubon Nature Institute for their leadership and commitment to protecting whooping cranes and our natural heritage through the Whooping Crane Recovery Program."

 In 1944, only 21 whooping cranes were left in the wild. With concerted effort, those numbers have climbed to about 450. While the progress is encouraging, it doesn't guarantee long-term survival of the species, especially given challenges they still face, including water shortages, power line collisions, habitat loss and shootings

Award recipients have worked to help whooping cranes recover by breeding them in managed care, protecting key habitat and using education and outreach to engage the public in protection efforts.

With the species' very existence at risk, these organizations are working together to innovate, learn and apply the latest science to set the stage for whooping cranes to survive on their own - safe and secure in the wild.

Joel Hamilton, Vice President and General Curator at Audubon Zoo
"We consider it an honor and a privilege to share this honor with our partners. Our collaboration with other AZA facilities, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Patuxent (Maryland) Wildlife Research Center has yielded encouraging results over the years, but there is much work to be done. And Audubon Nature Institute remains committed to the continued success of this historic conservation initiative.''
Joel Hamilton, Vice President and General Curator at Audubon Zoo

"Conservation cannot be truly achieved without great partnerships like those of Audubon Nature Institute, the Calgary Zoo and the San Antonio Zoo,'' said Rich Beilfuss, President and CEO of the International Crane Foundation.

 "With great intention, we are slowly walking whooping cranes back from the brink of extinction. We are so honored to receive the North American Conservation Award in recognition of our collective, longtime efforts to save this iconic species.''

"We are delighted to receive the North American Conservation Award with our esteemed partners from the United States,'' said Dr. Clement Lanthier, president and CEO of the Calgary Zoo.

 "We are proud that decades of collaborations in captive-breeding and innovative conservation science have made such a difference for the recovery of whooping cranes in the wild. We remain committed to reintroduction of this species and many others that need our help.''

About AZA

Founded in 1924, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of zoos and aquariums in the areas of conservation, animal welfare, education, science and recreation. AZA is the accrediting body for the top zoos and aquariums in the United States and eight other countries. Look for the AZA accreditation logo whenever you visit a zoo or aquarium as your assurance that your are supporting a facility dedicated to providing excellent care for animals, a great experience for you and a better future for all living things. The AZA is a leader in saving species and your link to helping animals all over the world. To learn more, click here.

Audubon Nature Institute

Audubon Nature Institute operates a family of museums, parks and research facilities dedicated to celebrating the wonders of nature. Through innovative live animal exhibits, education programs and scientific discovery, Audubon makes a meaningful contribution to preserving wildlife for the future. Audubon Nature Institute flagships include Audubon Park, Audubon Zoo, Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, Entergy Giant Screen Theater, Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium, Audubon Louisiana Nature Center, Freeport-McMoRan Audubon Special Survival Center, Woldenberg Riverfront Park and Audubon Wilderness Park. Ron Forman is President and CEO of Audubon Nature Institute.