Audubon Nature Institute Press Kit

Audubon Nature Institute

Audubon Nature Institute is a private, not-for-profit member organization with a collection of world-class public parks and museums dedicated to "celebrating the wonders of nature." Audubon welcomes two million visitors to its admissions-based museums each year.

Audubon Nature Institute is guided by eight objectives that support our mission:

  • Providing a guest experience of outstanding quality
  • Exhibiting the diversity of wildlife
  • Preserving Louisiana habitats
  • Educating our diverse audience about the natural world
  • Enhancing the care and survival of wildlife through research and conservation
  • Providing opportunities for recreation in natural settings
  • Operating a financially self-sufficient collection of museums and parks
  • Weaving quality entertainment through the guest experience

Audubon's family of parks, museums, and conservation facilities include:

  • Audubon Park and Riverview
  • Audubon Zoo
  • Audubon Aquarium of the Americas
  • Entergy Giant Screen Theater
  • Woldenberg Riverfront Park
  • Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium
  • Audubon Louisiana Nature Center
  • Freeport-McMoRan Audubon Species Survival Center
  • Audubon Wilderness Park

Audubon Nature Institute employs approximately 500 full-time employees and hundreds of seasonal workers. Audubon Nature Institute contributes significantly to the local and regional tourism economy with an estimated economic impact on the seven-parish New Orleans Metropolitan Area of $686 million a year.

Quick Facts:

  • Began as “Friends of the Zoo” in 1974
  • Average annual operating budget: $48 million to $52 million
  • Average annual capital budget: $11 million to $17 million
  • Zoo and Aquarium ranked in top 10 nationally
  • President and CEO: L. Ron Forman

Audubon Aquarium of the Americas

Located on the Mississippi River adjacent to the French Quarter, Audubon Aquarium of the Americas is consistently one of the country’s top-ranked aquariums, voted as one of the top five aquariums in the country in the USA Today “10Best” reader poll and ranked as one of the top things to do in New Orleans by Trip Advisor. The Aquarium transports visitors to an underwater world spanning from the Caribbean and the Amazon Rainforest to the waters that give New Orleans its lifeblood: the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico. Highlights of the Aquarium include:

  • Boasts an unparalleled riverfront location between Woldenberg Riverfront Park and Spanish Plaza with stunning views overlooking the Mississippi River.
  • Features the aquatic environments of both North and South American continents.
  • Visited by more than twenty-five million people since opening in September 1990.
  • 3,600 animals representing more than 250 species including ones that are endangered, such as African penguins, or rare, such as the white alligator (Audubon’s signature alligator is leucistic, a gene mutation resulting in white skin and blue eyes, rather than albino).
  • Displays more than one million gallons of fresh and saltwater.
  • Animal presentations and feedings that help visitors understand the creatures of the deep.
  • The Great Maya Reef exhibit, featuring a clear, 30-foot-long tunnel and aquatic creatures of all shapes and sizes swimming through 132,000 gallons of water. The habitat is 16.5 feet deep and the tunnel is made of acrylic that is five inches thick. Visitors can imagine themselves immersed in a submerged Maya city of mysterious ruins, surrounded by enchanting sea creatures. This underwater world of the ancient, flooded metropolis is alive with lion fish, yellowtail snapper, moray eels, spiny lobsters, and more all at home among stunning coral, sunken artifacts, and forgotten treasure. Guests can dive into fun by signing up for a premium snorkel adventure that offers a face-to-mask introduction to the aquatic animals of the Great Maya Reef.
  • The 400,000-gallon Gulf of Mexico exhibit, featuring a replica of an offshore oil rig. Residents in this exhibit include various shark species, stingrays, a 250-lb endangered green sea turtle names King Mydas, and some of the largest tarpons in human care.
  • The Sea Otter Gallery, featuring rescued Southern sea otters in a custom-designed 23,000-gallon exhibit.
  • The Seahorse Gallery, featuring a variety of seahorses plus two species of rare seadragons.
  • Colorful and unusual jellyfish from around the world in the “Jellies” exhibit, including many that can be found in local Gulf of Mexico waters.
  • The Stingray Touchpool, which gives visitors a chance to touch stingrays — opening in 2019, the new Sharks! Gallery will give visitors a chance to touch small species of sharks in addition to stingrays.
  • A colony of warm-climate African penguins — visitors can go behind-the-scenes for an up-close private penguin experience with the paid Backstage Penguin Pass Wild Encounter.
  • The Mississippi River gallery features the creatures of the “Big Muddy,” including catfish, paddlefish, and the iconic white alligator.
  • Parakeet Pointe lets visitors see, feed, and even touch a flock of colorful, friendly birds in a free-flight exhibit.

Audubon Zoo

Located in historic Uptown New Orleans’ Audubon Park, Audubon Zoo is consistently one of the country’s top-ranked zoos, voted as one of the top ten zoos in the country in the USA Today “10Best” reader poll and ranked as one of the top things to do in New Orleans by Trip Advisor. The Zoo offers more than 50 acres of family fun, including innovative natural habitat exhibits and a wide variety of more than 1,700 animals representing more than 350 species, many of which are endangered, such as Sumatran orangutans, or rare, such as the white alligator. Highlights of the Zoo include:

  • More than 50 acres of pathways and boardwalks in a beautifully landscaped gardenlike setting
  • More than 30,000 Member households
  • Visited by one million locals and tourists each year
  • Located on the site of a former 18th century sugar plantation and the 1884 World's Industrial and Cotton Centennial Exposition
  • The Louisiana Swamp Exhibit is the world’s only urban swamp, showcasing animals from South Louisiana such as black bears, bobcats, foxes, and the rare white alligator
  • Features Watoto Walk and Farm, where visitors can interact with domestic species such as sheep and goats while learning about African agricultural customs
  • Attractions such as the famous Monkey Hill, multiple playgrounds, and the Cool Zoo splash park featuring the Gator Run lazy river
  • Various up-close animal presentations, including ape chats and otter, alligator, and giraffe feedings
  • Jaguar Jungle, which transports to Central America, complete with an archeological dig, spider monkeys, ocelots, a jaguar, and the “Criaturas de la Noche” Bat House
  • World of Primates, featuring gorillas, mandrills, siamangs, golden lion tamarins, and many more
  • Asian species such as orangutans, babirusas, a Malayan tiger, Asian elephants, a Malayan sun bear, and barasingha deer.
  • False gharials, king cobras, rattlesnakes, and a Komodo dragon in the Reptile Encounter
  • Special education programs such as Safari After Dark sessions, Sensory Sundays, and seasonal Zoo Explorers camp
  • The Swamp Train, which takes visitors throughout the Zoo with stops at major areas
  • Hosts numerous festivals and special events throughout the year, such as Soul Fest, Get Yah Praise On, Asian Pacific American Society Festival, the Mother’s Day Celebration, Boo At The Zoo, and Audubon Zoo Lights presented by Children’s Hospital all featuring food, music, and family activities.

Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium

Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium, located in the U.S. Custom House on Canal Street, encourages you to use all five senses as you explore North America’s largest standalone museum devoted to insects and their relatives. You’ll discover why insects are the building blocks of all life on our planet and along the way, you’ll be shrunk to bug size; explore a mysterious Louisiana swamp; join the active audience of an awards show for bugs featuring celebrity voices; and be captivated by thousands of butterflies in an Asian-inspired garden. Butterfly Garden and Insectarium galleries include:

  • Bug Appétit, an adventure in eating where you can watch Audubon’s chefs incorporate bugs into their dishes and sample their delectable creations.
  • The Metamorphosis Gallery, which illustrates the incredible life cycle of insects through a working husbandry lab that shows how insects reproduce and grow and shows guests the miracle of butterflies emerging from chrysalises.
  • The “Awards Night” movie in the Terminix Immersion Theater, a rollicking, 4-D high-definition film about superstar bugs and their outstanding achievements featuring the celebrity voices of Joan Rivers and Brad Garrett.
  • The Zemurray Foundation Louisiana Swamp Gallery, which recreates a wetlands habitat with a life-sized cypress tree, aquatic insects, alligators, and other creatures as well as special sound and lighting effects that simulate dawn to dusk.
  • The Richard C. Colton, Jr. Underground Gallery, where visitors shrink to the size of an insect with gigantic animatronic bugs, oversized exhibits, and surprises around every turn.
  • The Field Camp, where visitors meet live insects and find out what it takes to be an entomologist in a tropical jungle.
  • The Goldring Family Foundation and The Woldenberg Foundation Hall of Fame Gallery illustrates the incredible life cycle of insects in one of the most historic rooms in the U.S. Custom House.

Entergy Giant Screen Theater 

Entergy Giant Screen Theater, located next door to Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, is one of only a handful of theaters in the world with its spectacular five-and-a-half story high-definition flat screen. Audience members in the 354-seat theater are immersed in images of unsurpassed size, clarity, and impact on a screen that’s three times the size of a normal movie screen. Sounds are enhanced by a specially designed six-channel, multi-speaker sound system. The Theater shows nature and science documentaries as well as select feature films.

Freeport-McMoRan Audubon Species Survival Center

Since 1993, Freeport-McMoRan Audubon Species Survival Center has worked to boost dwindling populations of disappearing animal species. In large, minimally-developed enclosures, species such as Mississippi sandhill cranes, whooping cranes, several species of endangered storks, clouded leopards, Mexican grey wolves, red wolves, bongo antelope, and eland have lived and bred in seclusion. The Survival Center was once home to Audubon Center for Research of Endangered Species (ACRES), where reproductive research produced dozens of world’s firsts in areas such as breeding of wild felids.

The Survival Center is operated by Audubon Nature Institute and sits on 1,200 acres of U.S. Coast Guard and City of New Orleans land along the Mississippi River. It includes undeveloped acreage around Audubon Wilderness Park, a protected archaeological dig site, and operational space for Audubon programs such as:

  • Alliance for Sustainable Wildlife (ASW), a partnership between Audubon Nature Institute and San Diego Zoo Global that is devising strategies to ensure sustainable populations of zoo animals as a haven for mammal and bird species whose numbers are declining. Alliance for Sustainable Wildlife is located on 400 acres of the Survival Center campus. It consists of large natural-habitat enclosures for groups of herding animals and large-bodied birds that provide spaces more amenable to large-herd and forest breeding while preserving existing naturally wild areas.
  • Coastal Wildlife Center (CWN), which rescues and rehabilitates Gulf Coast wildlife, serving as the primary response partner of Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries for rehabilitating marine mammals (dolphins, whales, manatees) and sea turtles.
  • Gulf United for Lasting Fisheries (G.U.L.F.), which works to ensure our region’s fisheries and commercial seafood industry are sustainable and provide leadership and guidance on responsible fishery management.

Audubon Park

Audubon Park is an urban Eden in the heart of historic Uptown New Orleans. This peaceful oasis has beckoned generations of New Orleanians and visitors with its quiet beauty, shimmering lagoons, allées of ancient live oaks, a tranquil 1.8 mile jogging path, a lagoon, picnic shelters, playgrounds, and more than 4,000 trees. Audubon Park is open to the public and features tennis courts, riding stables, soccer fields, the Whitney Young Pool, Audubon Clubhouse Café and Audubon Golf Club. Located between St. Charles Avenue and the Mississippi River, this 341-acre park was originally part of a plantation and was the site of the 1884 World’s Industrial and Cotton Centennial Exposition. The Park was originally designed by John Charles Olmsted of the Olmsted Brothers Firm, which designed Central Park in New York, the grounds of the United States Capitol and the White House, and the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago.

Woldenberg Riverfront Park

Woldenberg Riverfront Park is 17 acres of green space, public artwork, and brick pathways designed to bring visitors back to the heart of the city. The Park is home to many popular annual festivals and frequent open-air concerts and cultural events as well as Audubon Aquarium of the Americas and Entergy Giant Screen Theater. Located along the bank of the majestic Mississippi River, no visit to New Orleans is complete without a stroll through this riverfront jewel.

Audubon Louisiana Nature Center

Audubon Louisiana Nature Center has returned as a treasured greenspace for family recreation and environmental education in New Orleans East.

  • In March 1980, the Louisiana Nature Center opened its doors, offering a scenic interpretation of the Mississippi River Delta and Louisiana Coastal Zone in Joe W. Brown Park. In 1993, the facility merged with Audubon Nature Institute and was renamed Audubon Louisiana Nature Center.
  • In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath left the Nature Center swamped beneath six feet of water for more than a month, severely damaging its forests and destroying its interpretive space center.
  • The Nature Center reopened in the fall of 2017. The restoration of the 86-acre site in Joe W. Brown Park brought back many of the popular features that were built in the years following the Nature Center’s 1980 opening, including a planetarium, an interpretive center, a glass and steel greenhouse botany center, classrooms, interactive education exhibits, a network of trails and covered boardwalks, and convenient parking.
  • The Interpretive Center, boardwalks, and trails are free and open to the public. The Interpretive Center’s design allows for exhibits to be moved easily to convert indoor space for community events, and the Nature Center is home to an increasing number of community-based nature programs, such as Kinder-Garden, and events, such as Party for the Planet presented by Entergy: Spring Into Action.