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Zoo Staff Win AZA Awards for Excellence in Avian Husbandry

March 2012

Two Smithsonian’s National Zoo employees won American Zoo Association (AZA) Plume Awards last week for their achievements in breeding birds. A team of scientists at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) was recognized for work with white-naped cranes, and Kathy Brader, bird keeper, was recognized for her efforts with kiwi.

The team at Front Royal won the Plume Award for a Long-term Propagation Program for of its work with the white-naped crane species survival program. The award recognizes accomplishments in avian husbandry and future management of a species or group of a similar species. The team that won the award includes Warren Lynch, Chris Crowe, Lisa Ware, and Scott Derrickson. Sara Hallager accepted the award on behalf of Zoo and SCBI staff at Front Royal.

Animal keeper Chris Crowe said the team has worked for years to conserve the endangered white-naped crane by producing chicks from cranes other zoos were formerly unable to breed. Assisted reproduction techniques, including artificial insemination and chick fostering, have allowed SCBI to improve gene diversity and the overall viability of the population by recapturing genes that would otherwise be lost.

Kathy Brader, bird keeper, won an AZA Avian Scientific Advisory Group Plume Award for Exceptional Individual Achievement in Avian Husbandry because of her commitment to brown kiwi breeding and management in North America. She has been working hard to preserve kiwi for the past 25 years.

Thanks to Brader’s self professed “obsession” with the flightless bird, the international kiwi program has grown immensely in the past few years. There are 51 kiwis outside of New Zealand, and Brader is responsible for every single one of them. She hopes that all her hard work will help get the word out and educate people about kiwi conservation. The National Zoo has hatched seven kiwi since 1975 (six of those since 2006) and hosts the country’s only meet a kiwi demonstrations.

Brader said that the award was an unexpected honor that she was very grateful to receive. The AZA only awards this particular honor every couple years. “So many people are doing great conservation work out there,” she said. “It’s always nice to be recognized for your hard work.”

Congratulations to our winners!

Brown kiwi chick

White-naped crane and chick