A ZOOpendous Partnership
Hancock Whitney Zoo-To-Do, New Orleans' most-anticipated philanthropic event of the year, will celebrate its 42nd anniversary–and its 11th year with Hancock Whitney as Title Sponsor–on Friday, May 3, 2019. General admission begins at 8 p.m. and the party goes until midnight.
This adults-only black-tie gala features live music and an array of high-end cuisine and premium cocktails from more than 40 local restaurants and bars. Proceeds benefit Audubon Zoo.
The 2019 event will celebrate Audubon's conservation efforts for giraffes, a signature species of Audubon Zoo and the Alliance for Sustainable Wildlife, Audubon's conservation breeding partnership with San Diego Zoo Global.
"Hancock Whitney proudly supports Audubon Nature Institute and its efforts to preserve and protect nature," said Hancock Whitney Regional President Gary Lorio. "We are proud to partner again on Hancock Whitney Zoo-To-Do, a premier party like no other in New Orleans."
Hancock Whitney has been an invaluable supporter to Audubon Nature Institute for decades and has served as the Title Sponsor for Zoo-To-Do since the 2009 event.
"Audubon is truly grateful to Hancock Whitney for their generosity," said Audubon Nature Institute President and CEO Ron Forman. "Their support as Title Sponsor of Zoo-To-Do in particular has had an exponential impact on our mission, allowing us to raise critical funds that have shaped–and continue to shape–the future of Audubon Zoo."
Audubon is honored to have Carmen L. Duncan chair the 2019 Hancock Whitney Zoo-To-Do. Carmen is a Realtor Associate with RE/MAX N.O. Properties and is the wife of J. Kelly Duncan, President of Audubon Commission. She is also the daughter-in-law of Kitty Duncan, the first ever Zoo-To-Do Chairman.
You can learn more about Hancock Whitney Zoo-To-Do and purchase your tickets by visiting ZooToDo.org or calling (504) 861-5107.
At Home and Abroad
You can see the difference your support makes every day at Audubon's museums and parks. What's not so easy to see, but is just as important, is how your investment allows us to go above and beyond to save wildlife.
A perfect example is Audubon Zoo's work with babirusa, a pig species found primarily on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi. You can see babirusa in Audubon Zoo's Asian Domain, next to the Malayan tiger habitat and across from the barasingha deer exhibit. Audubon has had great success breeding babirusa as part of their Species Survival Plan, with mom Betty and dad Wrigley (who was born at Audubon Zoo) producing four piglets in recent years.
Few zoos in the U.S. exhibit babirusa, so guests witness something special when they see them at Audubon Zoo. Even though babirusa are a protected species, they are threatened in the wild due to illegal hunting and habitat loss. Audubon hopes that experiencing these dynamic animals up-close and learning about the pressures they face in the wild will inspire guests to work with us in supporting conservation efforts for babirusa in their native Indonesia.
Leading the charge in those conservation efforts is Joe Forys, Curator of Large Mammals at Audubon Zoo and Convenor of the Babirusa Global Species Management Plan (GSMP) for the Action Indonesia Partnership (AIP). Since 2016, AIP has promoted international collaboration to ensure the long-tern survival of four threatened species, including babirusa.
Joe has travelled to Indonesia twice so far, working with other experts from around the world in October of 2017 to conduct trainings for Indonesian zoos and forestry rangers and then again in February 2018 to do follow-up zoo and ranger station visits and plan the next two years of GSMP activities. While he was there, they visited Nantu forest in Sulawesi and saw babirusa in the wild.
"I can't really explain how excited we were to see the animals that we work with in the wild," says Joe. "It was even more gratifying to see the same behaviors in wild babirusa as those of the animals in our care. We are doing something right!"
Also from Audubon, Jamie Jackson, Audubon's Youth Development Coordinator, joined the 2018 trip to represent the Association of Zoos and Aquariums in AIP's Education Working Group. In addition to contributing staff time and travel, Audubon donates funds to help AIP operate.
"This program is wonderful because it allows zoo staff of various backgrounds to participate in conservation work in the field. We are helping animals in their native habitats as well as helping animals in Indonesian zoos. The program is working-there were tangible successes in just the four months between visits that we could see when we returned in 2018," Joe says.
"The zoos we visited improved in nutrition, enrichment, and training (and not just for GSMP species). Rangers told us they used the training that we provided in 2017 and had ideas for more. Office-based government officials were more effective in assisting the rangers on the ground. I can't wait to go back, and I am excited to be a part of such an important effort."
Fill Your Fall with Fun
Fall has to be the most anticipated time of year in New Orleans, and doesn’t it seem like we’ve been waiting forever? This is the perfect time to get back outside to revel in the wonders of nature. Lucky for us, just a short drive away, we have the best places you could ask for to do just that: Audubon Louisiana Nature Center!
While we like to joke about not having real seasons here in the south, the north isn’t the only place to find enchanting fall colors! As temperatures drop, the trees in the Nature Center’s hardwood bottomland forest turn from green to beautiful yellows and reds.
“Fall is a great time to visit the Nature Center,” said Nature Center Operations Director Isaac Wyatt. “The shade of the forest can drop the ambient temperatures and humidity, making it surprisingly pleasant even when you’re not under the canopy. Our deck-side rocking chairs are a perfect place to soak up that welcome fall feeling.” And, guests are invited to enjoy free coffee on Wednesday mornings (special thanks to our partners at Folgers for supplying the java!).
Whether you’re looking for a peaceful retreat from city life or a an active day outdoors with the whole family, the Nature Center has you covered! Below is a sample of some of the fun new festivals and programs at the Nature Center this fall: you can take a stroll with an Audubon Naturalist, learn the secrets of some misunderstood flying mammals during Bat Fest, or join monarch butterflies on their incredible annual migration during the new Butterflies in Flight Planetarium!
There has never been a better time to fill your fall with fun at Audubon Louisiana Nature Center. What are you waiting for? It’s time for you to get out and explore this New Orleans East treasure—discoveries await!
- Walking Trails: Open Daily | 8:00am - 4:00pm
- Exhibit Hall: Wed - Sun | 10:00am - 4:30pm
- Ranger Chats: Mon, Tues | 10:30am, 1:00pm
- Gardening Demonstrations: Weds | 11:30am; Sun | 9am
- Naturalist Strolls: Thurs & Fri | 9:00am & 11:30am; Sundays | 2:30pm
- Planetarium Shows: Wed, Thurs, Fri | 2:30pm; Sat & Sun | 10:30am, 1:30pm, 3:30pm
Blast off into the great beyond from New Orleans East! Explore the galaxy, including real-time images from NASA, during space-themed shows such as Universe or join monarch butterflies on their incredible annual migration during the Planetarium’s newest film, Flight of the Butterflies.
- Bat Fest: October 27
Learn more about these fascinating flying mammals! Bats are enjoying a surge in popularity now that everyone knows how great they are at catching mosquitos and other pesky insects. Find out all about it during a presentation by local bat expert Dr. Craig Hood and an urban bat hike at dusk!
- Fall Family Festival: November 17
Celebrate the best time to be outdoors in New Orleans with this annual festival focused on the celebration of fall and its bounty. NEW this year! An amateur pie baking contest featuring LOCAL ingredients and celebrity judges.
- Family Friday: November 23
Turn Black Friday into Green Friday! Steer clear of the mall and enjoy nature-focused fun for all ages at the Nature Center instead.
* Nature Center schedule subject to change.
Creatures of the Night
Thank you to Pan-American Life Insurance Group for their support of the Zoo's newest way to beat the heat: the Criaturas de la Noche Bat House!
Inside Jaguar Jungle's new Criaturas de la Noche Bat House, you can encounter a 42-foot flyway filled with hundreds of Seba's short-tailed bats, tarantulas, poison arrow frogs, ringtail cats, giant roaches, and infamous vampire bats, which may be seen drinking from saucers of blood! Outside, guests can relax in a spacious Maya village plaza, and kids can explore the new Pyramid Play Area.
The Criaturas de la Noche Bat House was made possible in part by generous support from Pan-American Life Insurance Group. Audubon thanks Pan-American Life for their commitment to the wonders of nature and the New Orleans community.
We Are Family
Spring is a special time in New Orleans, when families spend time together in the great outdoors and thoughts turn to visiting Audubon Zoo.
Now is a great time for that trip, because you'll want to meet the newest members of the ever-growing Audubon family, like Okpara, the silverback male heading up Audubon's gorilla group. He joins another recent arrival, female Tumani, and Praline, Audubon's young female. Gorillas are critically endangered, and the Species Survival Plan, a network of experts working to secure dwindling animal species, recommended this gorilla grouping as a good match for breeding. We hope that before too long, we'll be inviting you out to meet a baby gorilla!
Elsewhere in the Zoo, look for an active pair of Brazilian ocelots, Milagre and Joaquin, and a new male jaguar named Valerio in Jaquar Jungle.
It's a season for discoveries. Caterpillars in parks and gardens - and at Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium - prepare to become gorgeous butterflies. You can watch them make this incredible transformation in the Insectarium's Metamorphosis Lab and see them take wing in The Joe W. and Dorothy Dorsett Brown Foundation Butterflies in Flight gallery.
On your next visit to Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, be on the look-out for some colorful new members of the Audubon aquatic family as new fish are introduced in the Great Maya Reef.
And on the West Bank, some very important youngsters are exploring their home at Freeport-McMoRan Audubon Species Survival Center. In December of 2017, a critically endangered Eastern bongo was the first baby to be born as part of the new Alliance for Sustainable Wildlife (ASW) program, and a male reticulated giraffe was the first ASW baby born in 2018.
It's thrilling to see our young giraffe walking through the woods with his herd," said Curator Michelle Hatwood. "And our bongo calf is growing fast! She's healthy and enjoying her beautiful home. We've had our bongo herd for less than a year, and we are already seeing the population grow and benefit the preservation of the species."
Behind these efforts is an essential partner: you! Your support fuels Audubon's work locally, regionally, and globally, reaching far beyond the animals you see at Audubon facilities.
"We love sharing these incredible animals with our guests," said Primates Curator Courtney Eparvier. "We hope seeing these species from across the globe up close will inspire supporters to help us protect them by both contributing to our conservation efforts and taking action for the environment in their daily lives."
All the members of the Audubon family - whether they are a gorilla, a fish, a butterfly, a bongo, or a human - are in this fight to save species together. Your support makes it possible for Audubon to fight for these animals every day, and we thank you for being part of our family.
Neighbors Helping Families
We all know how important good neighbors are, and at Audubon Nature Institute, we've had the best in Children's Hospital. The relationship just gets better and better, deepening our mutual commitment to children and families through new partnerships that enhance the work we've done together for decades.
It's a collaboration that simply makes sense. Together, we created the most beloved Halloween tradition in the area - Boo at the Zoo.
Children's Hospital is a member of the LCMC Health family, which also includes Touro Infirmary, University Medical Center New Orleans, New Orleans East Hospital, and West Jefferson Medical Center. LCMC Health is a Louisiana-based, non-profit healthcare system serving the needs of the people of Louisiana, the Gulf South, and beyond.
Its mission is to enhance the health of the communities it serves by delivering the highest quality healthcare services to all patients through a commitment to clinical excellence, education, technology, and research.
Now, LCMC and Audubon are deepening our partnership, with Children's Hospital and Touro Infirmary serving as the Presenting Sponsors of Audubon Zoo's Mother's Day event on May 13, 2018.
"Mothers and children are the heart of our community, and we are delighted to partner with our friends at Audubon Nature Institute to bring this special Mother's Day event together," said Gregory C. Feirn, LCMC Health Chief Executive Officer. "It is a great tradition that showcases what's special about New Orleans and our hospitals - caring for families and celebrating our culture and community."
"The timing is perfect to announce how our partnership with Children's Hospital continues to grow," said Audubon Nature Institute President and CEO Ron Forman. "We've always had much in common through our shared commitment to children in New Orleans. Now we have even more in common as LCMC Health, like the Audubon family, provides excellent service to our community through a family of facilities. We're thrilled.
Thank you to Children's Hospital, Touro Infirmary, and the entire LCMC Health family for partnering with Audubon to make New Orleans an even more incredible place to raise a family.
And, mark calendars to join us for Audubon Zoo's Mother's Day Celebration presented by Children's Hospital and Touro Infirmary on May 13, featuring a special live performance by Soul Queen of New Orleans, Irma Thomas.
We hope to see you there!
Audubon recently embarked on a new collaboration with KultureCity, a leading non-profit recognized nationwide for using their resources to effect change in the community for those with sensory needs, to help the Audubon family be an inclusive community where play and learning connect for everyone.
In the past year, KultureCity has created several sensory-inclusive venues including seven NBA arenas, three NHL arenas, two NFL stadiums, seven restaurants, four zoos, one science center, and now one aquarium.
Audubon Aquarium of the Americas is the first aquarium in the country to be certified "Sensory Inclusive" by KultureCity, and Audubon Zoo is one of the first ten zoos in the country!
Our goal is to provide an inclusive and seamless experience for guests of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities. KultureCity has provided training for Audubon employees and is helping us to create the most welcoming environment we can for guests with exceptionalities such as autism, Down's syndrome, post-traumatic stress disorder, Parkinson's disease, and more.
Audubon's website will feature "Social Stories" for the Zoo, Aquarium, and Insectarium to help guests plans their visits and know what to expect. You'll now see signage at the Zoo and Aquarium designating "Quiet Zones" and "Headphone Zones" for guests who may experience sensory dysregulation, or "meltdowns." And, we'll also have weighted lap pads and sensory bags with fidget toys and other sensory aids available for guests to check out.
As part of this initiative, we're presentin free "Sensory Sunday" events at the Zoo, Aquarium, and Nature Center. Each "Sensory Sunday" event has a different theme, so families can attend multiple events throughout the year and enjoy a unique experience each time. Please check the Audubon website for the full schedule and more details (advanced registration online is strongly recommended).
By working across our facilities to ensure current programs are more inclusive, Audubon hopes to create experiences that address each visitor's unique needs, making Audubon more welcoming to all.
The Impact of One Simple Thing
Dear Audubon Family,
"A shark washed up on the beach down at the State Park," came the call one hot summer day in 2014. I was the Senior Curator of Fishes at the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center at the time and "that person" you called in Virginia Beach for shark strandings. Given the time of year, I knew it could be anything from a dogfish to a great white.
Driving to the beach, I went over the details I knew. I double-checked that I had everything I needed to identify the shark and try to determine why it died.
I saw the carcass as I motored over a sandy berm. The park ranger had pulled it above the tide line, leaving it among beach debris. What I found was something I'd never seen before. Peering through the sand and surf-splashed windshield, I saw a 6-foot sand tiger shark with a yellow Aerobie, a circular Frisbee toy, encircling and cutting into its gills like a tight choker. I didn't need an exam to tell me what killed this shark. The shark must have swum through the toy when it was smaller. Because the shark would not have been able to swim back out of the plastic noose, as the shark grew, it would have been squeezed tighter and tighter by the plastic until its breathing was restricted and it slowly suffocated to death. The internal exam confirmed my worst fears. This was an otherwise healthy female shark killed by plastic floating in the ocean.
This encounter forever changed my perspective. A children's toy took the life of a wild creature, took a valuable female shark from the local breeding population. I knew that sharing this sad story could help to make a difference. But, the world's ocean plastics problem seemed so much bigger than one lethal plastic toy.
Just think - the Plastic Ocean Foundation estimates that 800 million tons of plastics enter oceans every year. I can't comprehend how many Aerobies that is! But, I have seen what just one can do in the ocean.
Since that day, I learned more about our global plastics crisis, and I reduced my use of plastic bags and water bottles. I ask for no straws in my drinks and keep close track of my belongings and trash at the beach. These are manageable things I can commit to and, with the actions of others, can create a positive impact on our plastics crisis.
I still have that Aerobie in my office. Every day, it reminds me that just like it made a difference in one shark's life, I can make a difference as well - on simple thing at a time.
Husbandry Director, Audubon Aquarium of the Americas
Finding Hope in Crisis
For many, the new orangutan exhibit is the first stop on any Audubon Zoo visit. Its appeal is obvious. Feliz and Menari dominate the space from top to bottom, somersaulting and vaulting with flashes of brilliant orange or quietly sitting and engaging awe-struck visitors at the new training window. This fall, Audubon Zoo was honored to host a group of professionals dedicated to keeping critically endangered orangutans like Feliz and Menari from becoming extinct. This work is more important than ever, as this species hangs on to existence by an alarmingly thin thread.
The Orangutan Species Survival Plan (SSP) guides management of orangutan populations in North American zoos with the goals of ensuring the long-term survival of the species and maximizing its genetic diversity. These tasks are every bit as monumental as they sound.
"The Orangutan Species Survival Plan is a volunteer organization funded by donations and partnerships. Without that support, this important work couldn't happen," said Audubon Zoo Curator of Primates Courtney Eparvier. "Workshops like this are critical to strengthening conservation efforts to sustain a healthy populations of orangutans across the world."
While the agenda for the Orangutan SSP Husbandry Workshop at Audubon Zoo suggested some typical New Orleans activities, such a strolling through the French Quarter and perhaps enjoying an adult beverage or two, the more than 80 orangutan experts from across the country were seriously focused on the survival of a species.
For example, keynote speaker Dr. Cheryl Knott described her 25-year mission with orangutans in the wild in Indonesia, which face harrowing habitat encroachment by palm oil plantations and an illegal pet trade where infants are ripped from the arms of their murdered mothers. Thanks to the dedication of conservationists like Dr. Knott, wild orangutans are starting to see benefits from grass-roots efforts to create sustainable economic opportunities for local people that provide a livelihood while preserving orangutan habitat.
Other presentations at the workshop focused on topics ranging from cardiac health, nutrition, and nesting behaviors to partnerships between zoos and field conservation programs. One presentation detailed a recent trip to China, where U.S. orangutan experts laid the foundation for China's first National Orangutan Workshop.
It can be overwhelming to think of the crisis facing orangutans. But, there is hope in the dedication and expertise being leveled at solving the problems facing this remarkable species. Your donations to Audubon make it possible for passionate and dedicated staff members like Courtney Eparvier to go beyond the daily work of caring for Audubon Zoo residents like Feliz and Menari and contribute to the fight to save species through global efforts like the Orangutan SSP.
The future of orangutans depends on humans making the right decisions today, and all of us here at Audubon Zoo (especially Courtney, Feliz, and Menari!) appreciate your support.
A Sustainable Way of Life
The business of providing the abundance of delicious seafood required for New Orleans’ world-famous recipes has changed in the 20 years Mike Ketchum has been involved. Choices have expanded dramatically, and stakes are high as consumer demand soars.
Mike, national retail director for New Orleans Fish House (NOFH), has a unique vantage point on the seafood industry. He sees the industry growing—and the sustainable seafood effort gaining importance.
“Looking at supply issues, you see how a sustainable plan is essential,” says Mike. “If our kids, grandkids, and great grandkids are to have the same quality seafood, we must be smart now.”
NOFH is a new sponsor for Audubon’s Scales & Ales, a fundraiser at Audubon Aquarium of the Americas benefitting, among other Audubon conservation efforts, Audubon’s Gulf United for Lasting Fisheries (G.U.L.F.) sustainable seafood initiative. G.U.L.F. works on a variety of sustainability projects, including several efforts with the shrimp industry. As a large-volume retailer for shrimp, that’s where Mike Ketchum and NOFH became involved.
“G.U.L.F. invited me to join the Louisiana Shrimp Fishery Improvement Project committee. This issue matters to everyone—not just those of us in the retail seafood business,” Mike says.
“Mike is one of the first people we met when we started the G.U.L.F. program five years ago,” said G.U.L.F.’s John Fallon. “He and New Orleans Fish House provide vital support for our efforts to ensure the sustainability of Gulf of Mexico seafood.”
Supporting local fishermen and their communities while ensuring delivery of high-quality seafood and protecting the environment are founding principles of NOFH.
“Fishermen work hard and take pride in their product. On the other hand, consumers demand we all embrace the sustainability movement. Fishermen appreciate hearing about sustainability from people who know their situation in the Gulf of Mexico rather than from those with little-to-no familiarity with our fisheries.”
It was a natural progression for NOFH to become a sponsor of Scales & Ales on September 29, 2017. “We want to give back to our industry and community,” he says, and Audubon provides the perfect venue. Mike (pictured left, holding the NOFH catch of the day) has heard a lot about the event, but admits this will be his first Scales & Ales. “I’m expecting a good time, and I expect to talk a lot about our product and the business.” (Be sure to catch that beautiful sunset on the Mississippi River, Mike!)
NOFH leads an industry essential to our unique corner of the world, an industry we can’t afford to lose. Thanks to the community-minded efforts of companies like New Orleans Fish House, we’ll enjoy delicious seafood at Scales & Ales (as well as on our own kitchen tables!) for years to come.
“There were people who did this before me and there are people coming up after me,” says Mike Ketchum. “I’m doing my best to leave this business better for the next generation.”
This October, Celebrate National Seafood Month with Abita and G.U.L.F.!
Abita Brewing Company and Audubon’s Gulf United for Lasting Fisheries are teaming up to celebrating National Seafood Month this October!
The month will kick of at Scales & Ales on Friday, September 29, where Abita is the Exclusive Beer Sponsor and several G.U.L.F. Restaurant Partners will be serving up dishes made with local, sustainable seafood.
Throughout October, G.U.L.F. and Abita retail partners will join the National Seafood Month campaign. Keep an eye on Audubon and Abita’s social media pages for more information and special promotions!
Volunteer Dedicates 37 Years to Nature Center Bird Survey
The sun glowed bright in a deep blue sky at Audubon Louisiana Nature Center recently as long-time Audubon volunteer Glenn Ousset conducted his weekly bird survey, just as he has nearly every week for more than thirty years.
This relationship began when Glenn, a lifelong birder, decided to look for someplace where he could dig in for a comprehensive bird survey. “I wanted to become very familiar with species present throughout the years and note any changes over time.” After seeing a newspaper blurb about the opening of the Nature Center in 1980, Glenn began his weekly work.
Today, it’s hard to imagine this lush, beautiful spot ever being anything other than perfect, but Glenn remembers Hurricane Katrina’s gut-punching devastation. "Luckily, there was a patch of forest near Discovery Walk that was not destroyed," he recalls. "That twenty acres provided habitat for a population reserve of many species to repopulate the Nature Center and beyond."
Decades of meticulous notes and observations, however, almost didn't make it. Some duplicate records were saved, but some original records, Glenn had to let dry out for years and then carefully separate page by page. Over several months, Glenn entered all the Nature Center observations, from 1980 on, into eBird, Cornell Lab of Ornithology's widely respected global birding database for citizen scientists.
“We’re inspired by Glenn’s appreciation of the nuance and beauty of these surroundings,” said Audubon Volunteer Director Llewellyn Everage. “He contributes invaluable information, helping us make informed decisions about education programs, the way we manage the forest, and how we approach our citizen scientist effort—all because of his impassioned work over the past three decades.”
Through the years, Glenn has seen some unusual species at the Nature Center, such as magnificent frigatebirds, a pileated woodpecker, and a reddish egret. A few species that he used to see regularly have become rare, such as the red-bellied woodpecker (which will hopefully make a comeback as our hardwood forest is further restored).
There have also been surprises in Glenn's surveys—he saw two fish-eating anhingas in 1980, then didn’t see another for 20 years. Now, he sees them almost every time. How fortunate for us that Glenn has kept a patient watch for the birds of the Nature Center for the past 37 years! And, how exciting to imagine what other discoveries might be just ahead as his watch over the birds of the Nature Center continues.
Conservation in Action
Most people think of a trip to Jamaica and envision fun in the sun and an abundance of fruity libations, but not Audubon Zoo Senior Keeper Melanie Litton and Animal Hospital Manager Melissa Tomingas. For the past four years, they’ve made a significant difference for a critically endangered species through Audubon’s participation in the Jamaican Iguana Recovery Program.
In this program, zoos from around the country and in Jamaica work together as hatchling iguanas are collected, studied, and protected until mature enough to fend off predators. Once the iguanas are large enough, the team then releases them back into their natural habitat in Jamaica. This involves toting iguanas secured in backpacks for several hours over terrain unfriendly to humans, but perfect for iguanas. Last year, the team surpassed 300 animals released—a huge milestone for the project—and this year’s team released another 34 animals, bringing the total to more than 349 iguanas released back into their rocky limestone habitat.
“This is a dream project for those of us who love wildlife,” said Melanie Litton. “To be able to physically work with a critically endangered species and then have a real impact on their survival by putting them back into the wild is the most rewarding kind of field project. It’s hard work but it’s more than worth it.”
The Jamaican iguana was thought to be extinct until 1990, when a small surviving population was discovered in less than four square miles of habitat. The recovery program has given these animals a head start on their lives, but the species still faces threats from logging and predators like mongoose, feral cats and feral hogs—all invasive species. And from time to time, wrangling the governmental red tape in Jamaica can pose its own kind of challenge.
Audubon’s team works in conjunction with Fort Worth Zoo, National Zoo, and San Diego Zoo, along with Hope Zoo in Kingston, Jamaica, on this important in-situ project.
“It has been rewarding for Audubon to be a part of the successful head start and release of this species back into the wild,” said Audubon Zoo General Curator Joel Hamilton. “It’s another great example of the work Audubon does towards the conservation of the world around us.”
For the Audubon team, this project is “most definitely making a difference for the species,” according to Melanie Litton. “From an estimate of less than 300 in the wild to now more than double that number, this is true conservation in action.” This incredible impact wouldn’t be possible without supporters like you—349 Jamaican iguanas and all of us here at Audubon (especially Melanie and Melissa), thank you!
Creating A Home Through Audubon Moments
Photo courtesy of Doug and Debbi Harris
It was a bit of synchronicity, although Doug Harris didn’t know it at the time. On a business trip to New Orleans, he found himself enjoying the unique ambiance of Audubon Park and gazing across St. Charles Avenue at Tulane University–which was soon, unbeknownst to him, to become his office. Before long, both Audubon Park and Tulane University were part of daily life for Doug, his wife Debbi, and their girls Lyndsey and Norah.
In 2012, the Harris family made New Orleans their new home as Doug joined the Tulane University Department of Economics. The family instantly recognized the appeal of Audubon Park as a site for memorable family activities.
“When Doug was recruited by Tulane, we were thrilled to be moving to such a great city,” said Debbi. “Our realtor showed us Audubon Park when we were house-hunting, and we were hooked.”
Today, the Harris family loves being in Audubon Park, spending time together and enjoying the Park’s natural beauty. “When we go to the Park, we see people from all walks of life,” said Debbi. “We use the Park constantly and want to help maintain that beautiful space.”
The Harris family has been active in the Audubon community since the moment they arrived, splashing through the warm summer days at Cool Zoo and visiting the penguins at Audubon Aquarium of the Americas. “The girls were especially delighted when the penguins ran over to greet us during our penguin encounter,” said Debbi. “We had no idea they were so friendly! We’ll remember that moment forever as a very special one for our family.”
“We appreciate all the steps Audubon constantly takes to maintain the well-being of the animals in their care, and we want to support those efforts,” said Doug.
As regular contributors to Audubon Nature Institute’s Annual Fund, the Harris family is giving back to the adopted home that has embraced them so enthusiastically. “Audubon is for everyone, and a gift to Audubon is a contribution that fosters the wonderful diversity of the City,” said Doug. And after spending time in locales like Wisconsin, Michigan, and Florida, Doug and his family know just how special this place is.
“We heard a great saying that, in most of the country, people live in private. But here in New Orleans, people live in public,” said Debbi. “We have great festivals, incredible second lines, and amazing places like Audubon Nature Institute. It’s what makes the city what it is.”
Families like the Harrises are the heart of Audubon Nature Institute. Through their support, and yours, our efforts for wildlife and our children are multiplied many times over. This kind of partnership, created by our work together, gives us hope for the future.
Thank you, Debbi and Doug, for showing us Audubon through your eyes, and for sharing your story with us!
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Audubon Nature Institute? As Audubon insiders, your answer might be different from that of an occasional visitor. Audubon is always alive with fun activities and families making memories to last a lifetime. But, as you probably already know, Audubon works hard behind the scenes to save wildlife, including species native to our area—for example, whooping cranes and Mississippi sandhill cranes.
Audubon and three other organizations recently won the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' 2016 North American Conservation Award for work as part of the Whooping Crane Recovery Program. The whooping crane is North America’s most endangered bird, but through collaborative efforts like this, the population has risen from a low of 21 birds to today’s estimated wild population of 450.
At Freeport-McMoRan Audubon Species Survival Center, Audubon cares for nine whooping cranes, doing our part to pull this iconic species back from the brink of extinction. Audubon Nature Institute breeds the whooping cranes, sending the fertile eggs to Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Maryland, where the chicks are hatched, raised, and released into the wild.
Also on the Survival Center campus, Audubon’s Mississippi sandhill crane program is in its third decade. Since 1995, Audubon has released more than 200 birds, or about 65% of the current population, into the Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge near Gautier, MS. Audubon released four young birds into the refuge late last year and is preparing for this year’s next batch of hatchlings. Raising Mississippi sandhill cranes can be a daunting task involving long hours and hot, heavy costumes designed to keep the hand-raised hatchlings from identifying humans with food, but those who have had the privilege of being a “crane mom” say it’s very satisfying work.
Activity is set to pick up on the Survival Center campus this year as the Alliance for Sustainable Wildlife (ASW) launches. In partnership with San Diego Zoo Global, Audubon is focusing on sustaining herds of animals declining in numbers, such as okapi, giraffes, and eland. This partnership is a new model for future cooperative endeavors on behalf of the world’s animals.
Out of the millions who visit Audubon’s museums and parks, we know that you, through your ongoing involvement as part of the Audubon family, have a special appreciation for how each Audubon visit contributes to saving endangered species. It’s precisely because of your dedication, including your support of our annual fundraisers like Whitney Zoo-To-Do and Zoo-To-Do for Kids presented by Tulane Pediatrics, that we are able to participate in efforts to preserve our natural world. The crane recovery programs and ASW partnership reflect only a fraction of how far we’ve come and the impact our work can have—but only with your help. We have so much more to do together. Thank you for partnering with Audubon on this incredible journey.
It’s a Family Thing!
On a warm winter afternoon at Audubon Zoo, Brooke Duncan posed for pictures in his perfectly-pressed white linen suit, charming the 2017 chairwomen of Zoo-To-Do events and trading jokes with Audubon CEO Ron Forman. For Mr. Duncan, it was a full-circle moment. His late wife Kitty chaired the very first Zoo-To-Do, and Mr. Duncan is serving as Honorary Chairman for this year’s 40th Zoo-To-Do.
Together, Kitty and Brooke Duncan helped make Audubon what it is today and passed their extraordinary commitment to community service to their children. “My family did all the work,” Mr. Duncan teases; “I just drove the car.” The incomparable Kitty Duncan was the very spirit of Audubon Nature Institute, and her influence endures today. Smart, gracious, and incredibly effective at getting things done, Kitty applied her considerable powers of persuasion and fundraising skills to renovating
the Zoo in the 1970s.
In addition to her Zoo-To-Do leadership, Kitty was a stalwart presence at Audubon, serving on the Audubon Commission for more than 25 years. Later, Kitty gave her time once again as a horticulture volunteer, enjoying sunny days on Audubon grounds, keeping the flowers beautiful, and serving as an unofficial one-woman welcoming committee for Audubon visitors and employees.
Kitty’s husband Brooke and son Kelly, current Audubon Commission Chair, have lent their leadership and steady guidance for years, shaping Audubon as the fledgling non-profit that has grown from a park and small zoo to the world-class family of museums and parks it is today. And, daughter Kitty Sherrill served as Chair of Audubon Park’s 125th anniversary campaign, Olmsted Renewed, which is responsible for recent renovations and dozens of new live oak tree plantings in the Park.
Mr. Duncan says some of his favorite family memories take him back to times together at Audubon: birthday parties, carousel rides, and long walks under the oaks. A stroll through the
Zoo finds evidence of Brooke and Kitty’s love of Audubon everywhere, including the leopard exhibit in Asian Domain and the gorilla sculpture dedicated in Kitty’s honor.
It’s impossible to imagine what Audubon would be today without the Duncan family. How appropriate that in 2017, what would have been Kitty’s 90th year, her husband Brooke reprises the family role in throwing the best fundraising party in town by serving as Honorary Chairman of Whitney Zoo-To-Do!
Audubon Nature Institute owes its success to the dedication and commitment of our incredible community. We thank the Duncans, and you, for being part of the Audubon family. We hope to see you at Zoo-To-Do for Kids presented by Tulane Pediatrics on April 28th and Whitney Zoo-To-Do on May 5th as we celebrate another year of the wonder you make possible at Audubon Zoo.
New Book Makes Reading, Wetland Conservation Fun!
Looking for a great way to engage the kids in your life with the natural world and the habitats that make Louisiana so special, while also fostering a love of reading? Then look no further than Petit Pierre and the Floating Marsh, a brand-new illustrated children’s book. As part of our partnership to promote wetland conservation education, Audubon and the New Orleans Pelicans brought together children’s book author Johnette Downing and talented illustrator Heather Stanley to create an irresistible tale of a young pelican traveling the wetlands of Southeast Louisiana.
Pierre’s colorful journey, with engaging storytelling and lush illustrations, introduces children of all ages to conservation concepts and the importance of saving our wetlands. This charming new book makes a wonderful gift, and proceeds support wetland education initiatives. Petit Pierre and the Floating Marsh is published by Pelican Publishing and is available for purchase through Audubon’s website and gift shops, Amazon.com, and Barnes & Noble.
Your Support Saves Lives
Thanks to your support, Audubon’s Coastal Wildlife Network (CWN) stands ready to answer the call of marine mammals and sea turtles in need. Just last October, CWN partnered with the Coast Guard to release a rehabilitated young green sea turtle nicknamed “Peanut” back into the Gulf of Mexico. Peanut had been receiving treatment at Freeport-McMoRan Audubon Species Survival Center since May of 2016, when a concerned fisherman found him sluggish and exhausted in the wild.
Your donations support the staff and resources necessary for Audubon to perform this kind of rescue and rehabilitation work. Because of you, Peanut has a second chance at life in the wild. Thank you!
Trouble in Paradise
The Marianas are a breathtakingly beautiful chain of islands in the Pacific. But, behind that tropical tranquility, we are waging a battle against sweeping ecological disaster. While you may never set foot on one of the Mariana Islands, through your support of Audubon Nature Institute’s partnership with the Marianas Avifauna Conservation Program (MAC), you are part of the fight to save the birds of the Mariana Islands.
The trouble began in the late 1940s with the accidental introduction of an invasive species, the brown tree snake, to the southernmost island in the chain, Guam. With no natural predators, the snake reproduced at alarming speed, tearing through the island’s native bird populations. Concerned about the snake spreading to other islands in the chain, conservationists launched a multi-tiered response to save the birds. For nearly ten years, Audubon has been involved with this program, which has evolved over the years to include moving imperiled species to more remote islands where the threat from the brown tree snake is, for now, minimal.
Peter Bibeault, Audubon’s Assistant Curator of Birds, represented Audubon in 2015 and 2016 as part of a 13-member consortium of animal experts working to translocate Tinian monarch and bridled white-eye birds from the island of Tinian, where concerns about the snake are growing, to the more remote island of Guguan, where the birds have a better chance of survival. While this program has been active for many years, this was the first year birds were transferred by boat.
“Translocations in the past always used helicopters, which was certainly quicker, but it drastically limited the number of birds that could be transported all at once,” said Pete. Herb Roberts, co-leader of MAC, agrees, saying that in this case, it was the only option. “Lack of fuel and landing sites on remote islands prevents using helicopters,” he says. “But with a longer transit time, there’s definitely more planning involved.”
The group was divided into two crews. The first shift, including Pete, was stationed on Tinian, while the second shift transported birds to Guguan. To gather the birds, the crews set up mist-netting in dozens of locations throughout Tinian. They collected, examined, and readied the birds for a long, 14-hour boat ride to the island of Guguan, where, in sweltering heat over punishing volcanic rock, the transportation crew hiked even further into the uninhabited island and successfully released the birds into the forest canopy.
Over the past two years, nearly 200 birds have been released into this new, secluded habitat. Experts say the future looks good for these species, and the project will continue. “Translocation is the primary conservation tool for us because it creates large, wild, secure secondary populations,” says Herb Roberts.
Back home in New Orleans, you may have never held a small, fluttering bird next to your heart, securing it in a container for transport to safety. You may have never spent 14 hours on a hot boat, only to land on a rocky shore with hours of travel over harsh terrain still ahead of you. But, this truly is your work. And the joy of seeing those small birds take flight in a new forest home is yours as well, because you made it happen by supporting Audubon Nature Institute. Your donations save wildlife at home and across the globe. Thank you for all the ways you make our work together possible.
SOS for Sharks
The world’s shark population is suffering from a conservation disaster that is playing out before our very eyes.Thanks to your help, Audubon Nature Institute is able to work alongside other respected organizations to increase the odds for shark survival.
“Sharks have far more to fear from us than we do from them,” said Audubon Aquarium of the Americas Managing Director Rich Toth. “And with 200,000 sharks killed in our oceans through unregulated fishing every day, there are many species of sharks in alarming decline.”
This sobering information is nothing new for The University of Southern Mississippi’s Shark Research Program at the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory (GCRL). Researchers and students from this program recently set up displays at the Aquarium, guiding guests through shark artifacts and activities, including a display of shark blood, a trawl table simulating a day’s catch in the ocean, and information on shark tagging programs.
“The Aquarium is like a megaphone for shark conservation,” said GCRL student Mikhaila Miller. “It’s a chance for us to access a broad audience with a message on how we can work together to save sharks.”
After working on the OCEARCH research vessel visit to the Aquarium last year, the GCRL Shark Research Program is well acquainted with the Aquarium’s commitment to conservation. OCEARCH is a world leader in generating data on species like great white sharks, working on outreach and education with organizations like Audubon and others across the globe.
The GCRL scientists and students were excited by how plugged-in young Aquarium guests were during the group’s week-long stay at the Aquarium. The youngsters challenged researchers with questions on subjects ranging from shark nuclei to shark in soup. Until these kids are old enough to get out in the field, here’s what the rest of us can do to join the fight to save sharks:
1. Say NO! to shark in soup. Support sustainable seafood, especially in the Gulf of Mexico. Audubon’s Gulf United for Lasting Fisheries (G.U.L.F.) is on the front lines of that effort.
2. Be a shark advocate! Spread the word about how valuable these incredible creatures are to our ecosystem.
3. Continue your support of conservation education organizations like Audubon Nature Institute and the GCRL Shark Research Program as we educate visitors and participate in research missions like OCEARCH.
Find out more about why a good shark is a live shark, and why shark in soup is never a good idea, at SupportOurSharks.com. Your support and encouragement make these innovative projects a reality for Audubon Nature Institute and for all animals - on land, in the air, and under the sea across the globe. As always, thank you!.
The Final Frontier
How does supporting Audubon Nature Institute through events such as Scales & Ales fuel a mission to Mars? Making that connection came easily earlier this summer when NASA spent a week at Audubon Aquarium of the Americas presenting a special space exhibit for guests and conducting free workshops for teachers from across Louisiana. It is exactly this kind of event that Scales & Ales makes possible—and your support is the rocket fuel that propels it all forward.
As NASA representatives spent the week envisioning the future of our planet and our people with Audubon, there was no mistaking the message. “This next generation is going to Mars,” stated Paul Foerman from NASA’s Office of Communications. “It’s our job to inspire them.”
In the Aquarium Pisces Room, NASA set up more than a dozen fun and interactive displays for all Aquarium guests to experience. It was like a festival for space exploration, as visitors conjured up 3-D pictures of the Mars Rover and learned the secrets to growing potatoes in space. A real life astronaut, Victor J. Glover, even appeared in person to meet with guests and answer questions. Commander Glover visited Audubon Zoo the following day, inspiring Zoo Campers to reach for the stars as well.
“We love to see kids dive into the hands-on demonstrations we have here and dream about the possibilities for our future,” said Paul Foerman. “Making connections is our top priority, developing that inspiration in today’s youngsters, who will be the rest to travel to Mars in the 2030s.”
Not long ago a manned mission to Mars seemed impossibly far away, but suddenly now it’s within our grasp, a goal that will be attained by the same children who today run around Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, delighting in the penguins, the sharks, the sea otters, and the white alligator.
The free workshops generated plenty of excitement for the teachers who are educating and inspiring the Mars generation. Teachers eagerly absorbed fascinating information and demonstrations on NASA’s missions and goals. Thee success of these visionary NASA projects hinges on students educated through a robust Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) curriculum, providing NASA with experts ready to aim for the stars.
“There is a big push for STEM curriculum right now,” said Ann Caraway, a teacher at Carroll Junior High in Monroe, Louisiana. “We’re learning so much about what resources are available and how to create effective lesson plans. It’s almost like we are taking our students to space in a classroom.”
An emphasis on earth sciences underscored why the NASA partnership is a perfect fit for Audubon Nature Institute. Seminars included programs on living and working in space, an examination of key questions about our solar system, and discussions on technology as it drives exploration.
“Everything NASA does benefits the Earth,” according to Paul Foerman. For example, “Earth Right Now” shows how NASA uses the vantage point of space to understand our changing planet—and advises teachers how to bring this knowledge to life in the classroom.
“The resources we’re accessing here can help our kids imagine a future in space,” said teacher Ann Caraway. “As educators, we now have a direct connection to NASA. Mission accomplished!”
Mission accomplished, indeed—thanks to the dedication of Audubon supporters like you who know the value of preparing our youngsters today for the challenges they will face tomorrow, on our home planet and in galaxies far, far away.
Larger Than Life Learning
You can hear the excitement in Audubon Zoo’s Asia all the way from the elephant fountain in Cooper Plaza. It’s the sound of the joy of hands-on learning and experiencing the wonders of nature, the kind of learning that makes Audubon so special. Your donations and dedication make this magic possible. Because of your support, Audubon Zoo is delighting guests with an array of bright and breathtaking new ways to learn about the animals of Asia, including new habitats for Asian elephants and Sumatran orangutans as well as the addition of an elevated elephant education pavilion, made possible in part by a $1 million donation from Jeffrey Feil and the Charitable Lead Annuity Trust Under the Will of Louis Feil.
The pavilion is a breezy, color-splashed outdoor learning environment, running along the elephant exhibit. It includes spots for guests to engage with educators with hand-held animals and interact with irresistible games and graphics to learn about elephants and the environment (not to mention the opportunity to see Asian elephants Panya and Jean up close).
“Our goal is to share very personal insights into our elephants and their home,” said Audubon Director of Education Projects Brenda Walkenhorst. “We’ll give guests actions they can do to make a difference for wildlife. We also think it’s going to be very cool to use the new pavilion for overnights and evening conservation events!”
Activities include iPad elephant “painting,” and a life-size graphic elephant where kids trace the fascinating story of elephant digestion, complete with sounds! The walls are lined with information about how elephants sleep, their importance to Asian culture and history, and other fun facts. Panya and Jean act as ambassadors for their species, bringing the complicated and deadly perils elephants face in the wild to life for guests. Treats include human/elephant conflicts such as crop raiding, poaching for the ivory trade, and habitat destruction from palm oil farming. Thanks to donors like you, Audubon Zoo’s Asia is filled with more ways than ever to kindle strong connections between wildlife and those who love it, so we can work together to save species from extinction. Your support makes these connections possible, creating a meaningful, lasting difference for animals at Audubon and across the globe.