Working Together in New Orleans
Greetings from New Orleans! I’m down in Louisiana for an annual meeting with directors from other institutions in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
This get-together gives us a chance to discuss new trends and opportunities, highlighting the best ways to share and care for the animals back home. This year’s meeting is of particular interest because Lisa Faust, Ph.D., Lincoln Park Zoo’s new Vice President of Conservation & Science, shared some key findings on AZA efforts to save species.
Right now a key AZA focus is the sustainability of zoo populations. We want to work together to make sure animal populations in zoos will be around for the next 100 or 200 years. To keep populations sustainable, we need to maintain a high level of genetic diversity through careful matchmaking organized by the AZA Population Management Center, which is hosted at Lincoln Park Zoo.
Where does Lisa come in? Two ways. First, she’s helped created models to gauge the sustainability for each population the AZA manages. Bears, big cats, parrots—she and her partners are steadily moving through to see if these zoo populations have the genetic foundation they need to be viably sustained.
Second, Lisa has helped create a system to track whether animal-management recommendations are actually taking place. As you may know, AZA Species Survival Plans® routinely suggest animal moves and pairings to produce the proper number of healthy new arrivals each population needs to thrive.
Until recently, there was no systematic follow-up on whether these recommendations were carried out. But the new PMCTrack monitoring system Lisa has developed compiles the outcomes of each previous recommendation. Doing so gives population planners the resources they need to better plan for the future. Everyone in the zoo field will benefit from this work.
On a personal note, I enjoyed touring the city’s Audubon Zoo, Audubon Aquarium of the Americas and Audubon Insectarium (my first visit for the latter). Walking around, I thought back to how devastated the zoo and aquarium were after Hurricane Katrina—and how zoos and aquariums across the country raised funds to get them back on their feet.
Today, I’m happy to say they look great. Their resurgence offers a welcome reminder of how much zoos and aquariums can accomplish when we work together.