Freeport-McMoRan Audubon Species Survival Center in New Orleans has welcomed the first group of animals from San Diego Zoo as part of an innovative partnership between the two animal conservation leaders to bolster populations of threatened and endangered species.
The collaboration–the Alliance for Sustainable Wildlife–is designed as a modern-day ark to preserve species that are vulnerable in the wild and sustain populations in human care. The first arrivals include reticulated giraffe, sable, bongo, okapi, common eland, and yellow-backed duiker. Based on the conservation premise that a few hundred is a few hundred too few, the Alliance focuses on animals that live in large herds or flocks. These are species that by their very nature need space for large populations, to be viable, sustainable breeding groups.
“Building sustainable populations of some endangered species means that we need space for large groups of these animals or space for them to exhibit natural behaviors,” said Bob Wiese, Ph.D., Chief Life Sciences Officers, San Diego Zoo Global. “Here at the Alliance for Sustainable Wildlife we have created large spaces that will help us build these populations and fight extinction.”
There was good news on this front when the first baby of 2018 was born on January 9. The newborn male reticulated giraffe was an impressive 6 feet tall and weighed in 150 pounds—typical for the species!
The efforts at the Alliance are "...headed by a skilled team of science and animal care experts with years of experience developing breeding and husbandry practices,” said Michelle Hatwood, Freeport-McMoRan Audubon Species Survival Center Curator. “By joining forces on this project, we put to work our shared expertise in assisted reproduction techniques and behavioral sciences to help create sustainable populations of animals.”
The project echoes the original purpose of the Species Survival Center, which opened in 1993 as an off-site breeding and research facility. While the West Bank campus spans more than 1,000 acres, the Alliance for Sustainable Wildlife (ASW) will occupy approximately 425 acres of the space.
“The Alliance is a one-of-a-kind resource for zoos and aquariums to rebuild animal collections that are in danger of disappearing,” said Ron Forman, Audubon Nature Institute President and CEO. “We will be a haven for animals that have been disappearing in the wild. We want to ensure that these species continue to maintain numbers needed to keep them from the brink of extinction.
Both Audubon Nature Institute and San Diego Zoo Global bring a wealth of animal care experience to this endeavor. This collaborative effort, comes in part, from the ongoing efforts of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) to create and manage species through the collaborative efforts of accredited zoos.
Initial construction involved fence installation, road building and new barns for giraffe and okapi. The animals have room to roam in large open areas designed to showcase the natural setting. This is the first phase of a multi-phase project. Alliance for Sustainable Wildlife will not be open to the public, but educational tour opportunities may be possible in the future.