Audubon, San Diego Zoo behind animal breeding center in New Orleans

Jan. 8, 2014 at 4:45 PM
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NEW ORLEANS, Jan. 8 (UPI) -- Ground was broken Wednesday in New Orleans on a facility to house roaming animals conservationists say they hope will repopulate threatened species.

Joel Hamilton, Audubon's vice president and general curator, said the project of the Audubon Nature Institute and San Diego Zoo Global will house more than two dozen endangered and threatened species on its 1,000 acres along the west bank of the Mississippi River, the Times-Picayune of New Orleans reported.

The partnership's breeding site, one of the largest of its kind in the United States when completed in 2017, is based on the model that certain animals will breed more easily and with more genetic diversity when they can roam in herds or flocks.

"What we are doing is looking at the population of animals that we have in zoos and at some of the species that have not been as successful at breeding as we would like and therefore aren't as sustainable as we'd like for the future of zoos," said Hamilton, who oversees the zoo's animal programs and the Freeport-McMoRan Audubon Species Survival Center, where the breeding center will be built.

While zoos and aquariums work together to help repopulate one species, the partnership between Audubon and San Diego is the first time two organizations are tackling conservation so broadly, representatives of the two organizations said.

The Species Survival Center opened in 1993 and Audubon has invested about $30 million in its development, the Times-Picayune said. San Diego Zoo Global is expected to contribute about $10 million to the project over the next 5 years for capital improvements while Audubon and San Diego Global will share operating costs. The center will be constructed in three phases.

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