Top 10 Wildlife Conservation Success Stories of 2006
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DECEMBER 28, 2006
By Press Release, PRNewswire

The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) today announced its top 10 wildlife conservation success stories for 2006. From elephants to amphibians, AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums spearheaded new efforts to protect wild animals - in some cases bringing them back from the brink of extinction.
"When people come to an accredited zoo or aquarium, they are not only getting a safe, fun family experience, they are participating in a global effort to save wildlife. We are linking the animals you see in AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums to significant wild animal conservation programs," said AZA President and CEO Jim Maddy. "Zoos and aquariums are changing the way people think about their role in conservation through an up-close connection to the natural world."
Top 10 Wildlife Conservation Success Stories in 2006:
1. Elephant Vasectomies. While poaching and habitat loss are causing elephant populations to decline worldwide, wildlife officials are culling elephants in confined areas, such as South Africa's Kruger National Park, where elephants are dangerously overpopulated. Culling can distress the communities of these highly social animals. Offering a safe and effective solution, a team of experts from Disney's Animal Kingdom and San Diego Zoo's Wild Animal Park developed a procedure for population control - elephant vasectomies. The technical team trained several African veterinarians on how to do the procedure, and researchers hope it will help advance techniques for surgery on other large animals, including hippos and rhinoceros.
2. Bringing back the American Burying Beetle. The American burying beetle was listed as endangered by the USFWS in 1989 and this year became the first insect ever to be managed by an AZA Species Survival Plan. These beetles are important scavengers in their ecosystem, eating decaying carcasses and burying them in order to lay their eggs. Thanks to AZA-accredited institutions like Roger Williams Park Zoo and St. Louis Zoo working together with the USFWS, new populations are being reintroduced and established in multiple areas.
3. Bongos are Back. The bongo, a threatened forest antelope native to Africa, is returning to its homeland thanks to a breeding program and public education efforts managed by the AZA Bongo Species Survival Plan and partner conservation organization, Mount Kenya Wildlife Conservancy. AZA zoos worked to establish a stable population of bongos in American zoos then released the animals back into the wild.
4. Sound the Trumpets. Two trumpeter swans bred and released into the wild by the AZA-accredited Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago have made history by hatching two healthy chicks. This is the first known wild trumpeter swan nesting in the state of Illinois since 1847.
5. Manatees and Turtles Rescued. AZA-accredited institutions along the East Coast of the United States are partnering to rescue and rehabilitate marine animals that are injured, sick or stranded and release them back into the wild. Threatened species, such as manatees, and endangered species, including sea turtles, are rescued through these networks. SeaWorld Orlando and Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa, Fla., have been instrumental in rehabilitating and releasing over 475 manatees - a significant contribution to the 3,100 manatees that currently reside in Florida waters. In addition, more than 20 AZA institutions, including South Carolina Aquarium and Riverbanks Zoo and Garden, are involved with sea turtle monitoring, rescue and rehabilitation.
6. Evading Extinction. AZA's Species Survival Plan (SSP) breeding programs were instrumental in saving the Guam rail, Attwater's prairie chicken, California condor and Micronesian kingfisher from extinction. Each of these bird species were essentially extinct in the wild; however, several AZA zoos took in pairs of the birds from the wild and breeding them, establishing a stable population, and reintroducing the birds back to the wild.
7. Breeding the Black-footed Ferret. Twenty-five years ago, AZA-accredited zoos captured and bred the last remaining black-footed ferrets in an attempt to prevent their extinction. Today, the black-footed ferret population numbers approximately 1,000, of which more than half were reared in AZA institutions. Working alongside other AZA institutions, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo has led the charge in the Black-Footed Ferret Species Survival Plan. This year 24 kits were born at the zoo, and seven have been sent to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) National Black-Footed Ferret Conservation Center in preparation for their release into the wild.
8. Saving the Frogs. Hundreds of frog, toad, salamander and other amphibian species are on the verge of extinction due to a devastating disease caused by the chytrid fungus. Scientists from the Smithsonian National Zoological Park played a large role in identifying the chytrid fungus as the culprit. Although individual frogs can be treated for chytrid, there is no way to remove it from the environment. To save frogs, AZA zoos and aquariums are collecting healthy pairs and bringing them into zoos to breed, creating a hedge against extinction. Through breeding programs, zoos are also actively supporting research on amphibians in the wild.
9. Re-introducing the White-winged Guan. The white-winged guan is a critically endangered bird native to the arid valleys of northwest Peru. Fewer than 200 individuals remain in the wild. The AZA Conservation Endowment Fund supported a project to increase the population and enhance community outreach at the Chaparri Community Ecological Reserve in Peru. Goals include establishing a population of 40 white-winged guans in the reserve by 2007 and educating local residents about the project.
10. Over the Rainbow, Palila Birds Fly. Seven palila, critically endangered honeycreepers native to Hawaii, were released into the wild in February. They were released into the Puu Mali Forest Reserve on Mauna Kea. Twenty-two palila have been released into the reserve since 2003. The Maui Bird Conservation Center was established in 1996 as part of the Hawaiian Endangered Bird Conservation Program (HEBCP), which is part of the AZA-accredited San Diego Zoo's department of Conservation and Research for Endangered Species. The HEBCP is working to recover 22 endangered bird species in Hawaii. Other native Hawaiian species that are being propagated and managed at breeding centers, and which may soon become part of the release efforts, are the Maui parrotbill, Hawaii 'akepa and creeper, nene, and 'alala.
Founded in 1924, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of zoos and aquariums in the areas of conservation, education, science, and recreation. Look for the AZA logo whenever you visit a zoo or aquarium as your assurance that you are supporting a facility dedicated to providing excellent care for animals, a great experience for you, and a better future for all living things. With 214 accredited members, the AZA is a leader in global wildlife conservation, and your link to helping animals in their native habitats.