Featured photo by ZooNation / Nick Pelisek, taken at Busch Gardens Tampa
Back in 2013, the Audubon Nature Institute of New Orleans and San Diego Zoo Global announced plans to design, build, and operate a collaborative breeding facility, called the Alliance for Sustainable Wildlife (ASW). The new facility will take up about 425 acres of the 1,100-acre campus of the Freeport-McMoRan Audubon Species Survival Center, which is also operated by the Audubon Nature Institute. The new ASW is a groundbreaking initiative on behalf of the two organizations, as it represents the first occasion in which two zoos have come together to design and operate such a large-scale breeding facility.
Zoos and aquariums make many different contributions to conservation, and one of these is maintaining insurance populations of endangered species, which serve as backups in case the wild counterpart populations drastically decline. This breeding facility is being designed to increase the genetic diversity and breeding success of some of these insurance populations by maintaining large herds and flocks of several species so that wild social structures and behaviors can be replicated.
Today, the Audubon Nature Institute and San Diego Zoo Global announced that the construction on the facility, which began about six months ago, has reached the halfway point, and animals are expected to begin moving into the facility by late spring of this year.
The project is being planned and built in four phases, and the first phase will conclude with the completion of enclosures and barns for giraffes and okapis. Special attention is being given to preserving the natural woodland forests that cover the Survival Center’s campus. The reticulated giraffes will have a 43-acre enclosure in which to roam, much of which will be undisturbed woodland forest. The herd of eland antelope already found at the Survival Center will receive new individuals to increase the genetic diversity.
The next three phases of the project, which are expected to be completed within the next few years, will see more than two dozen species brought to the facility, including sable and roan antelopes, bongos, whooping cranes, and curassows.
It is hoped that this kind of partnership breeding facility will be replicated among other zoos and aquariums across the country. While the new facility will not be open to the public, the possibility of educational tour opportunities has been mentioned. See the video below from the Audubon Nature Institute for more information on the project: