The Audubon Nature Institute is joining forces with the San Diego Zoo to help preserve endangered and threatened mammals and birds. New Orleans will provide space for a five-year, $10 million project.
Tucked away on Coast Guard property on the West Bank is the Audubon Species Survival Center. Facilities on the 1,000 acres have been used for studying the best ways to help animals in danger of disappearing. Researchers have been banking frozen materials and studying genetics. Now, as Audubon spokeswoman Karyn Kearney explains, a more natural approach will be taken.
“In order to be successful we need to have large populations of these animals in a breeding group," Kearney said. "And that’s what’s missing in urban zoos, especially, because they don’t have the land."
Plans call for two 50-acre enclosures and eight more that are half that size. Some may house more than one species if they’re compatible. Their new habitat will be off limits to the public. But if the breeding plan works, animals will eventually be seen by people across the nation.
“The reason zoos exist is, if we can expose future generations to these unique and compelling species then they will really care about protecting them in the wild," she said. "And that’s what this is all about: preserving habitats and preserving these species for the future.”
Researchers will first focus on birds and animals with hooves. Fences will be installed and animals put in place later this year, with breeding programs under way next year.