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St Louis Zoo Launch New Effort to Save the Red Wolf

Posted By : The Animal Facts Editorial Team

Date: February 2, 2021 12:40 pm

red wolf conservation St Louis

A group of American red wolf pups

Photo Credit: Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium in Tacoma Washington

The St Louis Zoo in the United States has responded to a call to help save the American red wolf with as few as 20 of these animals now thought to remain in the wild. They will transform 20 acres of their 355 acre conservation property, the Saint Louis Zoo Sears Lehmann, Jr. Wildlife Reserve by building habitats for 12 mated pairs of wolves in 2021.

During 2022 the zoo will welcome the 12 mated pairs of wolves with hopes they will breed and increase the number of their species. This facility is not open to the public which will allow the wolves to learn natural survival skills.

St Louis Zoo is collaborating with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), which is responsible for managing the wild American red wolf population and reintroduction efforts in the eastern U.S., as well as with the Conservation Centers for Species Survival (C2S2), a science-based global initiative taking collective action to save animals from extinction.

Funding for the program has come from private donations, Kevin Beckmann and an anonymous donor. St Louis Zoo also received USFWS Recovery Challenge grant funding through C2S2. 

“We’re incredibly thankful for the generosity of donors who support our mission to save animals from extinction,” said Dr. Bonner. “Conservation is the backbone of the Zoo, and we’re committed to innovative, collaborative projects like this one to secure the future of wildlife.” 

red wolf conservation St Louis

An adult red wolf

Photo Credit: Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium in Tacoma Washington

“American red wolves are key species,” said Jeffrey Bonner, Ph.D., Dana Brown President and CEO, Saint Louis Zoo. “Once populations are restored, they should create a balanced natural environment, fulfilling their predator-related roles to maintain stability within the ecosystem.”

Unfortunately the remaining red wolves face increasing threats from humans. They are regularly victims of illegal hunting, vehicle strikes and habitat loss.

The St Louis region has a rich history with wolf conservation which has been led by the Endangered Wolf Center located in Eureka, Mo. This was established by retired director of the St Louis Zoo, Marlin Perkins and his wife Carol in 1970. Today the center is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and has become a global leader in preserving and protecting endangered canid species.

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For many years the St Louis Zoo and the Endangered wolf center have collaborated in various ways. They have provided assistance using their 50 years of expertise to help decide the location and construction of the zoo's new wolf habitats.

“We are absolutely thrilled that the Saint Louis Zoo is joining the pack to save the American red wolf,” said Virginia Busch, CEO, Endangered Wolf Center. “We look forward to expanding our collaboration with the Zoo in the future.”

“The quick work of the Saint Louis Zoo to answer the call to action for this North American species is crucial for its survival,” said Angelina Casillas, Programs Coordinator, C2S2. “American red wolves are critically endangered, and this long-term commitment by the Saint Louis Zoo will be key to growing the population in zoos and restoring a sustainable, healthy population to the wild.”  

red wolf conservation St Louis

An adult red wolf

Photo Credit: Rebecca Bose/Wolf Conservation Center-South Salem New York

This new conservation center being established by the St Louis Zoo will provide roughly 25% of the species which are needed as part of the American Red Wolf Species Survival Plan (SSP) of the AZA to double the population of this species in zoos.

The SSP manages the population of the American red wolf in human care and works to protect this species in the wild. As well as being part of the SSP, American red wolves are one of the species in AZA’s Saving Animals From Extinction (SAFE). Through SAFE, the entire AZA-accredited zoo and aquarium community focuses its conservation science, wildlife expertise, and outreach to millions of annual visitors on saving species in the wild.

“The Saint Louis Zoo has been a leader in conservation efforts for many years and for many species,” said Chris Lasher of the North Carolina Zoo, who is the American Red Wolf SSP coordinator and SAFE program leader. “Their focus on the American red wolf will provide critical support in saving this species from extinction.”

red wolf conservation St Louis

An adult red wolf

Photo Credit: Rebecca Bose/Wolf Conservation Center-South Salem New York

Learn more about St Louis Zoo on their website – St Louis Zoo

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