New 'Modern Day Ark' program at Audubon Nature Institute aims to save endangered animals

The Audubon Nature Institute is working with conservationists to save species from going extinct.

ALGIERS -- A groundbreaking conservation partnership between Audubon Nature Institute and San Diego Zoo Global has brought 28 new animals to New Orleans.

The species have yet to be put on display to the public, but Eyewitness News took a tour of the Freeport McMoran Audubon Species Survival Center to meet the new residents.

"They are made for Louisiana," Michelle Hatwood, a curator at the Center said.

The animals are among those listed as endangered or threatened in the world.

"A lot of you know the problems that we are having in the wild, between poaching, wildlife smuggling, habitat loss, populations are decreasing at incredible rates," Hatwood said.

Because the Center sits on about 1,000 acres of land, it's ideal for species of animal that need a large amount of space.  The new arrivals include South African Sables, Yellow-Backed Duiker, and Okapi.  Leaders of the Center liken their plan to a modern day ark.  The idea is to exchange animals around different zoos to promote breeding.

"Are they breeding? Absolutely," Hatwood said. For our Bongo, for our male, I think he's a night breeder."

The Reticulated Giraffe is also part of the group.  It may come as a surprise, but conservationists say their population has been dwindling.

"A fairly significant problem, in the past 20 years, their numbers have dropped," Chris St. Romain with the Center said.

"This is the template that other zoos are going to take on in the future.  So we're kind of the guinea pigs for this project, and I hope it works," Hatwood said.

And if it does, the Nature Institute and other organizations like it will help many species from going extinct.

Already two giraffes are pregnant and expected to give birth sometime this year.

© 2017 WWL-TV


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