Silver Spring, Maryland – The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) announced that the Calgary Zoo, International Crane Foundation, San Antonio Zoo, and Audubon Nature Institute received Top Honors in AZA’s 2016 North American Conservation Award for the Whooping Crane Recovery Program. This annual award recognizes exceptional efforts toward regional habitat preservation, species restoration, and support of biodiversity in the wild.
“The Calgary Zoo, International Crane Foundation, 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, 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, just 21 whooping cranes were left in the wild. With concerted effort, their numbers have climbed to about 450. While today’s number is encouraging, it isn’t enough to guarantee the long-term survival of the species, especially given the number of threats they face, which include 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 facilities are working together to innovate, learn, and apply the latest science until whooping cranes are surviving on their own–safe and secure in the wild.
“Conservation cannot be truly achieved without great partnerships like those of the Calgary Zoo, Audubon Nature Institute and the San Antonio Zoo. 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” explained Rich Beilfuss, President & CEO of the International Crane Foundation.
“We are delighted to receive the North American Conservation Award with our esteemed partners from the United States. 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,” said Dr. Clément Lanthier, President & CEO of the Calgary Zoo.