Powell, OH – Columbus Zoo and Aquarium and the Wilds were recognized by their peers during the Honors and Awards ceremony at the annual Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) conference held last week in Atlanta, Georgia.
North American Conservation Award
Top Honors were received by both the Columbus Zoo and the Wilds in the North American Conservation Award category for the Freshwater Mussel Conservation and Research Center. This award recognizes exceptional efforts by AZA institutions toward regional habitat preservation, species restoration, and support of biodiversity in the wild.
The Freshwater Mussel Conservation and Research Center was opened in 2001 along the banks of the Scioto River near the Columbus Zoo to assist in the propagation and conservation of highly endangered freshwater mussel species. The primary goals of the Center are to: 1) establish brood stock of target endangered species; 2) conduct basic conservation research on mussels including host identification, phylogenetic analyses, and health parameters; 3) culture and propagate newly transformed mussels for eventual introduction to the wild; 4) translocation of targeted endangered species; 5) offer temporary refuge to mussels removed from situations where there have been environmental disasters; and 6) provide educational outreach opportunities for the citizens of Central Ohio.
The Freshwater Mussel Conservation and Research Center is a collaboration between the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, the Wilds, The Ohio State University, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Columbus Recreation and Parks Department.
Top Honors were received in the Exhibit Award category for Polar Frontier which opened at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium in 2010 – bringing back the community’s most asked-for animal, presenting a conservation education story about the fragile arctic environment, and designing an exhibit with a major focus on animal enrichment.
Polar Frontier represents a long-abandoned mining town and draws guests into the Arctic Circle; connecting them to the animals that live in some of the coldest climates in the world including polar bears, brown bears, and Arctic fox.
The polar bear habitat features a 1.32-acre yard with two pools and viewing of the bears from above and below water that is kept between 55 and 65 degrees year-round due to underground geothermal tanks. The brown bear habitat is nearly an acre full of dig pits, deadfall trees, two shelters, waterfall and a freshwater pool. The Arctic fox habitat represents a garden shed that sits against the abandoned mine and includes an outdoor yard and indoor den with visitor viewing at both locations. Polar Frontier also includes a themed playground and an interpretive center.
The Polar Frontier experience is made possible due to the generosity of Franklin County residents and funds raised through a county property tax levy as well as significant corporate and private contributions from Battelle, Nationwide Insurance, David C. Goss Family, and the Ed and Ellen Klopfer Family.
Outstanding Service Awards
Columbus Zoo and Aquarium Assistant Curator Harry Peachey received an Outstanding Service Award for his important work with elephants and the Elephant Taxon Advisory Group.
Columbus Zoo and Aquarium Director Emeritus Jack Hanna and the Zoo’s Animal Programs Director Suzi Rapp both received Outstanding Service Awards for their support and efforts on behalf of the annual AZA Legislative Reception.
The Wilds was once again granted accreditation by the AZA after undergoing a rigorous review and on-site inspection of its operations and programs including animal care, conservation initiatives, visitor services education programs, safety, and financial stability. Both the Wilds and the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium are part of a prestigious group of AZA-accredited facilities that represent less than 10 percent of the approximately 2,400 USDA-licensed wildlife exhibitors.
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The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is home to more than 9,000 animals representing 675 species and provides more than $1 million annually to support over 70 conservation projects worldwide. A recreational and education destination that includes the 22-acre Zoombezi Bay water park and 18-hole Safari Golf Club, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium hosts more than two million visitors annually and was named the #1 Zoo in America by USA Travel Guide. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, the Columbus Zoo has earned Charity Navigator’s prestigious 4-star rating. For more information and to purchase advance Zoo admission tickets, visit www.columbuszoo.org.
The Wilds, one of the largest conservation centers in North America, is home to rare and endangered animals from around the world along with hundreds of indigenous species. The mission of the Wilds, a nonprofit organization, is to advance conservation through science, education and personal experience. The Wilds is open daily through September. For more information, visit www.thewilds.org.