Audubon Nature Institute has its roots in historic Audubon Park, a natural setting for family recreation since the 1800s, and Audubon Zoological Gardens, which evolved from a single flight cage built in 1916 to a 58-acre jewel ranking among the nation’s best zoos. Along the way, Audubon grew into a respected steward for economic leadership, conservation and environmental education.
Strong public and private support drove the Zoo’s phoenix-like rise in the 1970s when it replaced cramped cages with lush natural habitat, evolving from an “animal ghetto” to an “urban oasis.” The success of the Zoo provided impetus for future Audubon projects, inspiring enduring community support and commitment.
Audubon Nature Institute created Woldenberg Riverfront Park in 1989, giving the city its first direct access to the downtown Mississippi riverfront and providing a beautiful setting for Audubon Aquarium of the Americas (1990), where visitors explore fascinating aquatic environs ranging from the Great Maya Reef to the Amazon Rainforest. Freeport-McMoRan Audubon Species Survival Center, a 1,200-acre sanctuary where threatened animals live and breed undisturbed, debuted in 1993. Audubon Louisiana Nature Center, an 86-acre preserve within the New Orleans city limits, joined the family in 1994. Entergy IMAX® Theatre (now Entergy Giant Screen Theater) opened in 1995 at the Aquarium, utilizing the most advanced motion picture technology available. In 1996, Audubon Center for Research of Endangered Species opened to develop assisted reproduction techniques to breed disappearing species. Also that year, Audubon Wilderness Park began operating as an educational “field” resource for life science study by school, camp, and scout groups. In 2008, Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium became the first major attraction to open in post-Katrina New Orleans, signaling that recovery was underway.
The Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010 proved Audubon was capable of nimble response to yet another disaster. Working closely with state and federal agencies, Audubon created a kind of sea turtle triage facility at the Audubon Aquatic Center on the Survival Center campus, setting protocol and focusing expertise and resources on caring for several hundred turtles injured in the spill.
In 2012, Audubon entered into an historic partnership with San Diego Zoo Global to create a new program for breeding disappearing Zoo animals on the site of the Freeport-McMoRan Audubon Species Survival Center. Other new programming at the Survival Center included Gulf United for Lasting Fisheries (G.U.L.F.), dedicated to the conservation of U.S. fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico. In 2013, implementation began after years of careful planning and a fair amount of red tape to rebuild Audubon Louisiana Nature Center, which was destroyed as a result of Hurricane Katrina.
Audubon Nature Institute is committed to “Celebrating the Wonders of Nature” every day in this city where celebrations are woven into the basic fabric of life. Each member of the Audubon family is unique, but essential to the overall character of the collection. Our success is measured in such tangibles as visitor attendance, the births of disappearing wildlife, the substantial economic impact on our community, and the smiles on the faces of the children who visit us all year long.