Phoenix Zoo's Conservation Program Recognized with National Award

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The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) announced the Phoenix Zoo received its 2010 Significant Achievement Award for North American Conservation for their Chiricahua leopard frog (CLF) head-starting and release program. This annual award recognizes exceptional efforts toward regional habitat preservation, species restoration, and support of biodiversity in the wild.

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The Phoenix Zoo is proud of its long-standing commitment to the Chiricahua leopard frog head-starting program. We have raised 11,000 tadpoles and froglets for release to the wild and are an integral part of this cooperative conservation effort.

The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) announced the Phoenix Zoo received its 2010 Significant Achievement Award for North American Conservation for their Chiricahua leopard frog (CLF) head-starting and release program. This annual award recognizes exceptional efforts toward regional habitat preservation, species restoration, and support of biodiversity in the wild.

“The Phoenix Zoo is taking the lead in North American conservation,” said AZA President and CEO Jim Maddy. “Conservation is a high priority of the Phoenix Zoo as well as all AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums, and this award provides well-deserved national recognition for this important endeavor.”

The Chiricahua Leopard Frog Head-starting and Release Program is one of the flagship efforts of the Phoenix Zoo’s Conservation and Science Department. 2010 was a banner year, marked by celebration of the release of the 10,000th head-started frog. In fact, over 1,700 frogs were released into the species’ native range in Arizona this season, bringing the total to 11,654 frogs released since the program began in 1995.

“The Phoenix Zoo is proud of its long-standing commitment to the Chiricahua leopard frog head-starting program,” said Bert Castro, President and CEO of the Phoenix Zoo. “We have raised over 11,000 tadpoles and froglets for release to the wild and are delighted to be an integral part of this cooperative conservation effort.”

CLFs are federally listed as Threatened under the US Endangered Species Act, and are found in pockets of Arizona, New Mexico, and Sonora, Mexico. The Phoenix Zoo is an active partner in the recovery program for this species, and works closely with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the US Forest Service, the Arizona Game and Fish Department and private landowners to support CLF recovery. Wildlife biologists bring wild CLF egg masses to the Phoenix Zoo’s Conservation Center each spring, where the eggs hatch out and grow into large tadpoles and froglets in the head-starting lab. The resulting tadpoles and froglets are released in pre-determined locations based on where augmentation is most needed. In the wild, only 5-10% of the eggs laid survive to adulthood. In the head-starting lab, the zoo has seen an average survival rate of over 60%, with a record year of 90% survivorship. This allows the zoo to make a significant contribution to the number of CLFs present in the wild in Arizona.

Over the length of this program, the Phoenix Zoo staff and their volunteer “Tadpole Task Force” have committed well over 15,000 hours to the head-starting effort and to assisting with field surveys and habitat improvement activities. Project costs average about $75,000 annually, which until 2010 have come almost entirely from the Phoenix Zoo’s operating budget.

The Zoo has received considerable media and community attention for the CLF head-starting program and has shared their work with zoo guests, school groups, and donors during special tours of the Conservation Center lab. The Phoenix Zoo is proud of their contributions to this multi-agency effort and is eager to continue playing an essential role in the recovery of this beautiful frog.

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. Look for the AZA logo whenever you visit a zoo or aquarium as your assurance that you are supporting a facility dedicated to providing excellent care for animals, a great experience for you, and a better future for all living things. The AZA is a leader in global wildlife conservation, and your link to helping animals in their native habitats. To learn more visit http://www.aza.org.

Contact:
Linda Hardwick, Phoenix Zoo, 602.914.4363
Linda Cendes, AZA, 301.562.0777 x236

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