Coming to New Orleans, the Jurassic Park of Endangered Species

A proposed conservation center will be a refuge for dozens of threatened species.

okapi
Pack your bags, Mr. and Mrs. Okapi, you might be moving to Louisiana. (Visuals Unlimited, Inc./Gerard Lacz/Getty)
A former Gourmet staffer, Lawrence enjoys writing about design, food, travel, and lots of other stuff.

Louisiana is known for a lot of things: the historic French Quarter in New Orleans, a diverse culinary heritage, and as the birthplace of American jazz. Antelopes, whooping cranes, and okapi? Not so much.

But creating a breeding site and program for rare and endangered species on a 1,000-acre site near New Orleans is the goal of an agreement between the Audubon Nature Institute and the San Diego Zoo Global. The two organizations have announced a partnership called the Alliance for Sustainable Wildlife that, according to a press release, “will devise strategies to ensure sustainable populations of unique and endangered zoo animals [and] will be a haven for more than two dozen endangered and threatened mammal and bird species.”

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“The Alliance for Sustainable Wildlife came about as the result of a number of meetings that Dr. Robert Wiese, chief life science officer for San Diego Zoo Global, had to highlight the challenge of the lack of sustainable populations for many gregarious species, such as mammals that live in herds and birds that live in flocks,” Christina Simmons a public relations representative for San Diego Zoo Global, told TakePart.

“As part of this effort to raise awareness he indicated that what was needed were large areas of land where large groups of these species could be maintained and form breeding populations that supplement the few accredited zoos who already have similar facilities, like the San Diego Zoo Safari Park,” she said. “The Audobon Nature Institute approached San Diego Zoo Global with an offer of such a parcel of land for this purpose.”

At first, the preserve's animals will include bongos, okapis, pink-backed pelicans, and whooping cranes. “This will be an accredited zoological facility and, in keeping with the requirements for accreditation, will have plans to take care of the animals in the event of a natural disaster.”

Interestingly, in another part of the state, visitors can check out the Global Wildlife Center in Folsom, Louisiana. The state’s tourism website notes that, “This 900-acre, free-roaming conservation center is home to more than 4,000 exotic and endangered animals.”

However, the center being established by the Alliance for Sustainable Wildlife will have limited public access since it’s primary purposes are intended to be breeding and research. The New York Times noted that, “for this reason the species do not have to be, as one scientist put it, the most charismatic kind.”

Charismatic or not, it’s exciting to know that large-scale breeding programs like this could prove to be lifesavers for many species that are on the brink of extinction.

Do you support setting aside land for wildlife conservation centers? Tell us in the COMMENTS.

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