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Fort Worth Zoo awarded International Conservation Award

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 habitat—giving 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 initiatives.


Fort Worth Zoo receives esteemed International Conservation Award

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.