Dominic Massa / Eyewitness News
NEW ORLEANS - Separated by four states and more than 1,800 miles, two of the nation’s leading zoos – New Orleans’ and San Diego’s – announced a partnership Tuesday which they say will push both facilities toward the forefront of repopulating and researching endangered and threatened species.
It could also mean that in a matter of years, the West Bank – site of the Audubon Nature Institute facility where the alliance will be based – will be home to freshly-hatched whooping cranes, newborn Masai giraffes and bongo antelopes. All three are members of threatened or endangered species and are expected to be among the first animals to be bred at the new facility.
The new Alliance for Sustainable Wildlife, a partnership between Audubon and the San Diego Zoo Global was unveiled at a press conference Tuesday morning.
According to both zoos, the partnership will include a 1,000-acre haven at the Freeport McMoRan Audubon Species Survival Center and Audubon Center for Research of Endangered Species, located in Algiers near English Turn.
It will be a breeding facility for more than two dozen endangered and threatened mammal and bird species from around the world. The Algiers facility, first opened in 1996, has long been recognized as a leader in research into endangered species.
But this new partnership will shift part of the work at that facility from researching to replenishing, and breeding, animals that face possible extension of their species.
Like Audubon, the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy has an Institute for Conservation Research, with a so-called "frozen zoo," where genetic material from members of threatened species is stored and can be accessed in the future if a species is in danger of being lost. According to Audubon, there are less than a dozen such facilities in the world.
In the future, officials with both zoos envision the facility will become an international center for creating populations of animals which will be self-sustaining.
Construction is scheduled to being in the fall and the breeding program is expected to begin in 2014.