FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 11, 2003
AMERICAN ZOO AND AQUARIUM ASSOCIATION
Jane Ballentine 301-562-0777 x252
Mexican Gray Wolf Recovery Program Receives Significant Achievement Honor
COLUMBUS, Ohio - The American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA) today awarded the Significant Achievement in North American Conservation to the 15 accredited zoos who cooperatively participate in the "Mexican Gray Wolf Recovery Program." Program officials accepted the award at AZA's 79th Annual Conference, meeting here this week.
The Mexican gray wolf (Canis lupus baileyi), or "lobo," is the rarest, southernmost, and most genetically distinct subspecies of the North American gray wolf. International wolf experts (IUCN Wolf Specialist Group) rate recovery of the Mexican gray as the highest priority of gray wolf recovery programs throughout the world.
Missing from the landscape for the last half of this century, the howl of the Mexican gray wolf can again be heard in the mountains of the southwestern United States thanks to the efforts of the institutions and organizations that comprise the Mexican gray wolf recovery program. In March 1997, Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt signed the Record of Decision approving the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's recommendation to release captive-reared Mexican wolves into the Apache National Forest of Arizona. The Service began releasing Mexican wolves into the wild in March 1998. Although the road to recovery is still long, the Mexican wolf is taking an important step forward in returning to its former role as top predator in the intricate balance of southwestern ecosystems. Today there is a minimum of 36 free-ranging wild wolves, many of them wild born offspring of wolves contributed by AZA institutions. With the uncounted pups from the nine packs with litters, the total population could be as high as 60. The objective is to re-establish about 100 wolves in the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area in Arizona and New Mexico by the year 2005.
The captive community houses over 260 Mexican gray wolves in facilities throughout the United States and Mexico. Participants are an active and integral part of the recovery effort - through their wolves released, the education and advocacy programs they support, and the time and money that they contribute to conservation initiatives on behalf of the rarest wolf in the world - the Mexican gray.
The 15 AZA accredited zoos that participate in the Recovery Program are: Albuquerque Biological Park, Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, Dakota Zoo, El Paso Zoo, Fossil Rim Wildlife Center, The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, Minnesota Zoological Garden, Smithsonian's National Zoological Park, Phoenix Zoo, Sedgwick County Zoo, Utica Zoo, Wild Canid Survival and Research Center, Zoo New England.
The North American Conservation Award is presented each year by the American Zoo and Aquarium Association to recognize outstanding dedication to conservation issues and development of natural resources.
The American Zoo and Aquarium Association was founded in 1924 and currently represents 201 accredited zoos and aquariums in North America. AZA's mission is to support membership excellence in conservation, education, science and recreation.
For additional information, please contact Dr. Susan Lyndaker Lindsey at 636-938-6490 or 5900