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Zoo Atlanta Wins Major Award for International Conservation

By Keisha Hines
The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) today announced that Zoo Atlanta has been awarded Top Honors for the 2012 AZA International Conservation Award for its Scientific Approaches to Conservation of Giant Pandas and Their Habitat program.
“Zoo Atlanta is a proven leader in international wildlife conservation,” said AZA President and CEO Jim Maddy. “While all AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums make conservation a top priority, this award brings well-deserved recognition to Zoo Atlanta for making a positive impact on the future of this species.”
This annual International Conservation Award recognizes Zoo Atlanta, along with its conservation partners at the Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park, Memphis Zoo, and San Diego Zoo Global, for exceptional efforts toward giant panda regional habitat preservation, species restoration, and support of biodiversity in the wild.
“Giant pandas have been a center of excellence for Zoo Atlanta for more than a decade. Research by Zoo Atlanta scientists has made valuable contributions to our understanding of this species, particularly in terms of maternal and developmental behavior, vocal communication, and cognition. We continue to supply new insights for our partners in AZA and in China, where we have a direct impact on field conservation,” said Raymond King, President and CEO of Zoo Atlanta. “Our giant panda program, perhaps most notably in the births of cubs in 2006, 2008 and 2010, has played a vital role in raising awareness of the need to protect this and other endangered species, and the enormous popularity of these animals offers and invaluable opportunity to give Zoo visitors a personal stake in their stewardship and preservation.”
Zoo Atlanta initiated its giant panda loan in 1999 with its primary Chinese partners, the Chinese Association of Zoological Gardens (CAZG), the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, and the Chengdu Zoo. Zoo Atlanta scientists developed a program focused on using behavioral and veterinary research to understand, support, and lengthen maternal care; improve reproductive success and well-being; understand cognitive and perceptual abilities, including vocal communication in reproductive contexts; and improve health, including preventative medicine and refining anesthesia protocols. Zoo Atlanta’s relationship with the Chengdu Research Base and nearby Chengdu Zoo also led to the creation of conservation education departments at these institutions, which were the first of their kind in Chinese zoos. As a result, Zoo Atlanta established the Academy for Conservation Training (ACT), which trained a network of professional zoo educators in China, resulting in the launch of successful public awareness programs at their institutions. Through ACT, Zoo Atlanta conducted conservation education training courses for 234 zoo educators representing 54 zoos throughout China. These zoos receive 43 million visitors annually.

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