AZA awards conservation award to Houston Zoo, Naples Zoo and Caribbean Gardens, and SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment collaboration


The giant armadillo declared one of five indicator species for the establishment of protected areas thanks to the collaboration Giant Armadillo Conservation Program (GACP)

HOUSTON and NAPLES, Florida and ORLANDO, Florida, November 17, 2021 / PRNewswire / – The Giant Armadillo Conservation Program (GACP), a collaboration between the Houston Zoo, Naples Zoo and SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment (NYSE: SEAS), received the 2021 William G. Conway International Conservation Award from the Association of Zoos. and aquariums (AZA). The award recognizes outstanding efforts by members of the AZA institution, related facility or conservation partner in preserving habitat, restoring species, and supporting biodiversity in the wild. The giant armadillo sits across South America and has been deemed vulnerable to extinction by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Giant armadillos were declared one of the five indicator species for the establishment of protected areas in 2014 in the State of Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil, thanks to the efforts of the GACP.

SEAS (PRNewsFoto / SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc.)

“With species disappearing at alarming and increasing rates, leadership in conservation has never been more important. The engagement of these well-respected zoological organizations – the Houston Zoo, the Naples Zoo and SeaWorld – improves understanding and protection of the giant armadillo. Their collective efforts to save the giant armadillo from extinction is cause for hope, for this species and many others, ”said Dan Ashe, President and CEO of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

AZA is the accreditation body for the best zoos and aquariums in United States and 12 other countries. All three GACP institutions are accredited by AZA.

The giant armadillo is a bred species and the largest armadillo species in the world, with wide distribution in South American habitats. However, they are still naturally rare throughout their range, often experiencing local extinctions as in Uruguay and elsewhere. Although habitat destruction, poisoning, and hunting pose major threats to the remaining populations, much of this species remains unknown.

“Without the support of AZA zoos, we would never have been able to start or continue the giant armadillo conservation program,” said Dr Arnaud Desbiez, head of the giant armadillo conservation project. “Even though there are no giant armadillos in AZA’s collections, the zoos have worked together to fund, create new field techniques, build team capacity, and create such a strong partnership that our collective effort now extends to FOUR biomes SIX conservation initiatives. “

GACP identifies giant armadillo as ecosystem engineer as abandoned burrows provide shelter for 70 species of wildlife

In 2011, the GACP established the first long-term ecological study of giant armadillos in Brazil. He identified the species as ecosystem engineers whose empty burrows provide shelter from predators and extreme temperatures for more than 70 species of wildlife, from lizards and snakes to ocelots, peccaries and anteaters, tamandua and au puma. The GACP has pioneered methodologies to study the ecology and biology of the giant armadillo, promoting conservation awareness through environmental education and awareness, and has become one of the main projects for strengthening the capabilities for aspiring environmentalists with more than 85 Brazilian biologists and veterinarians trained since its inception. Its goal continues to be to use field data to inform awareness and conservation planning and to make the giant armadillos a flagship species for biodiversity conservation to protect the remaining native habitats and wildlife. AZA institutions have been instrumental in every step of the way over the past 11 years.

Lee ehmke, President and CEO of the Houston Zoo said, “Our partnership with the Giant Armadillo Conservation Program has inspired us to open South America Pantanal in 2020. The lush habitat showcases the animals we protect in the wild, including giant anteaters, tapirs, etc., with conservation partners including GACP. With this new exhibit, the zoo offers visitors the chance to view these animals on an immersive and engaging trail and reinforces our zoo’s conservation commitment to this unique and endangered ecosystem. “

“Wildlife does not stop at the borders of protected areas, neither does conservation”, explains Tim tetzlaff, Director of Conservation of the Naples Zoo. “Large rural landowners can support huge numbers of wildlife on their private lands. Understanding their point of view and genuinely engaging with these key stakeholders is essential for wildlife to remain abundant enough to fulfill their place in the ecosystem, including the role of giant armadillos in helping dozens of people. ‘other rare species. The Naples Zoo greatly appreciates the efforts of the GACP to listen to diverse audiences to meet the needs of people, animals and the land – a model we are following in regional work with Florida panthers. “

Dr. Chris Dold, Zoological Director of SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment added: “The conservation of animal species is at the heart of our goal and extends to all corners of the world. With funding from the Busch Gardens Conservation Fund, we provided funds, staff and support on the ground. since the start of the projects and we are honored to play a role in the preservation of this elusive but critical species. “

Education programs at all three institutions highlight the project to guests both in programming and in interpretive messages.

About the Houston Zoo
The Houston Zoo connects communities with animals, inspiring action to save wildlife. Founded in 1922, the zoo is today a leading nonprofit in conservation and education that cares for thousands of animals. While remaining a cherished destination for fun, family and inspiration for all that of houston diverse communities. The Houston Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of zoos and aquariums in the fields of conservation, education, science and recreation.

About the Naples Zoo and the Caribbean Gardens
Naples Zoo and Caribbean Gardens is a non-profit, charitable organization that deals with rare species inside and outside of nature through conservation and education programs that create a better future for humans and wildlife. With the support of visitors, members and donors, the Naples Zoo has invested more than $ 2.4 million to save plants and animals in the wild since 2014. The zoo funds the annual salaries of 10 field workers in Brazil, Uganda, and Madagascar including biologists, researchers, village game scouts and two wildlife vets, including the chief veterinarian of the giant armadillo conservation program. With the firm belief that what is best for humans and wildlife is the same in the long run, the Naples Zoo strives to support conservation efforts that reflect this mutual benefit.

About SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment
SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc. (NYSE: SEAS) is a leading theme park and entertainment company delivering experiences that matter and inspiring guests to protect the animals and wild wonders of our world. The Company is one of the world’s leading zoological organizations and a global leader in animal welfare, training, husbandry and veterinary care. The company collectively cares about what it considers to be one of the largest zoological collections in the world and has helped advance animal care. The Society also saves and rehabilitates sick, injured, orphaned or abandoned marine and land animals, with the aim of returning them to the wild. The marine world® The rescue team has helped more than 39,000 animals in need over the history of the company. SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc. owns or licenses a portfolio of recognized brands, including SeaWorld®, Busch Gardens®, Aquatic®, Sesame place® and sea rescue®. Over its more than 60 year history, the Company has built a diverse portfolio of 12 regional destinations and theme parks which are clustered in key markets across United States, many of which feature its unique zoological collection. The company’s theme parks offer a wide range of rides, shows and other attractions with a wide demographic appeal that provide memorable experiences and a strong value proposition for its customers.

Media contacts:

Houston Zoo
Jackie Wallace

Naples Zoo
Tim tetzlaff

SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment
Lisa Cradit



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