Fort Worth Zoo awarded International Conservation
Zoos Across the Nation Providing Iguana Second Chance for Survival
The American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA) awarded the nationally
renowned Fort Worth Zoo the International Conservation Award in
late 2000 for its ongoing conservation work with the highly endangered
Jamaican iguana. Since the rediscovery of the species in 1990, the
Zoo has lead efforts to reestablish a population of what is considered
to be the world's most endangered lizard species.
For nearly 50 years the Jamaican iguana was believed to be extinct.
In 1990 a relic population was discovered in the rugged, remote
forests of the Hellshire Hills. Within the past decade, the Jamaican
iguana has gone from rediscovery to reintroduction. To date, 39
iguanas have been successfully reintroduced into their native habitatgiving
the species a second chance for survival.
Today, the project is widely recognized as one of the premiere
conservation success stories and has emerged as a model program,
illustrating that zoos working together can make a difference in
the survival of a species. Rick Hudson, conservation biologist at
the Fort Worth Zoo, coordinates the field research, conservation
and recovery program. The multi-faceted program includes three primary
components: a headstart/release program to assist in the recovery
of the wild population; a predator control effort to improve juvenile
survival and reduce adult mortality; and the establishment of captive
populations to safeguard against a catastrophic loss of the species.
The Jamaican iguana belongs to a group of West Indian lizards known
as rock iguanas, large plant-eating specialists that resemble ancient
dinosaurs. All eight species of rock iguanas are threatened, some
critically endangered, primarily because they inhabit fragile island
ecosystems that are highly vulnerable to the effects of introduced
species. In the case of the Jamaican iguana, the introduction of
the Indian mongoose to Jamaica brought about the decline and eventual
declaration of extinction of this species.
The 2000 International Conservation Award was given to 12 zoos
that have contributed funding and participated cooperatively in
this project. Officials of the Fort Worth Zoo, Zoological Society
of San Diego, Indianapolis Zoo, Audubon Institute, Sedgwick County
Zoo, Tulsa Zoo, Toledo Zoo, Central Florida Zoo, Columbus Zoo, Woodland
Park Zoo, Gladys Porter Zoo and the Milwaukee County Zoo accepted
the award at the AZA's 76th Annual Conference in September 2000.
The International Conservation Award recognizes exceptional efforts
by AZA institutions to promote habitat conservation and species
restoration, and to support biodiversity in the wild through conservation
Fort Worth Zoo receives esteemed International Conservation
Zoo given top honors for ongoing conservation work with Asian turtles
The American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA) recently awarded the world-renowned Fort Worth Zoo with the 2007 International Conservation Award for its coordination and outstanding work with the endangered Asian turtle species. Since 2001 the Fort Worth Zoo has lead efforts to protect and ensure the survival of the freshwater species.
AZA's most prestigious conservation award recognizes exceptional efforts by AZA institutions that promote habitat conservation and species restoration. The Zoo celebrates this achievement with a partnership of four other AZA institutions that contribute long-term funding and support to the Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA). This TSA partnership includes Zoo Atlanta, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), San Diego Zoo and Cleveland Metroparks Zoo.
In 2001, as a response to the Asian Turtle Crisis, TSA was founded with a simple mandate — bring together a diversity of human and financial resources to preserve options for the recovery of wild turtle populations and ensure zero turtle extinctions. Now, the group implements and supports turtle conservation in nine Asian countries such as Myanmar, China, Vietnam, India and Cambodia.
"TSA has become the go-to group for bringing about rapid turtle conservation action. We began by focusing on endangered turtles in zoos, but we now recognize the importance of establishing projects in the countries where these turtles are native," said TSA co-chair and Fort Worth Zoo conservation biologist Rick Hudson.
Project efforts focus on species ranked critically endangered by the IUCN Red List, including the Burmese roofed turtle, mangrove terrapin, Burmese star tortoise and the Yangtze giant softshell turtle, considered the world's largest and most endangered freshwater turtle.
Though TSA receives support from many zoos and organizations around the world, the five partner zoos have dedicated staffing and facilities toward TSA's mission and goals. Together, they hold a total of 678 Asian turtles representing 11 of the 18 most critically endangered Asian turtle species, and have produced more than 500 offspring.