Zoo Atlanta received the top conservation award for its giant panda program from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums at its annual meeting Sept. 24 in Silver Spring, Md.
“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,” Raymond King, Zoo Atlanta’s CEO and president, said in a news release.
The vulnerability of panda cubs was underscored Sept. 23 with the death of a recently born cub, who had not yet lived a week, at Washington’s National Zoo.
Zoo Atlanta started receiving giant pandas in 1999 under a loan program with its Chinese partners, the Chinese Association of Zoological Gardens, the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding and the Chengdu Zoo.
According to the release, Zoo Atlanta scientists developed the program focused on using behavioral and veterinary research “to understand, support and lengthen maternal care.”
The program, titled Scientific Approaches to Conservation of Giant Pandas and Their Habitat, also aims at improving reproductive success and well-being of the pandas and understanding their cognitive and perceptual abilities.
Zoo Atlanta’s relationship with the Chengdu Research Base and nearby Chengdu Zoo, the release says, also led to the creation of conservation education departments at these institutions, which were the first of their kind among Chinese zoos.
As part of the program, Zoo Atlanta has conducted conservation education training courses for 234 zoo educators representing 54 Chinese zoos, which receive 43 million visitors annually.
It also established the Academy for Conservation Training that trained the network of professional zoo educators in China who in turn have launched public awareness programs at their institutions.
The award also was shared with its conservation partners at the Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park, the Memphis Zoo and the San Diego Zoo Global.
Founded in 1924, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of zoos and aquariums in the areas of conservation, education, science and recreation. To learn more about the association, click here.
For more information about Zoo Atlanta, click here.