News ABOUT Zoos

More than 122 million people visited AZA (American Zoo and Aquarium Association) member zoos and aquariums in 1997. That attendance exceeds the number of individuals who attended professional football, basketball, ice hockey, and baseball games combined.

 Professional Sports Attendance 1997  
 National Football League (NFL 1998)


 Major League Baseball (MLB 1998)


 National Hockey League (NHL 1998)


 National Basketball Association (NBA 1998)



 121, 956,452

Harpy Eagle Released in Panama Rainforest

An endangered Harpy eagle (Harpia harpyja), hatched at the San Diego Zoo last October, was successfully released into the Panamanian rainforests in May as part of a captive breeding and re-introduction effort. The national bird of Panama, its population began to decline after the construction of the Panama Canal in 1914. Its slow reproductive rate and large home range made it one of the first species to be virtually eliminated due to human activities (such as deforestation and poaching). Today only a few nesting pairs are known to remain in the Panamanian forests.

Since 1989, the San Diego Zoo and The Peregrine Fund have been working together to release young harpy eagles into its native habitat. A young harpy pair, hatched at The Peregrine Fund's World Center for Bird's of Prey in Boise, Idaho, was released earlier this year. A fourth chick, hatched at the San Diego Zoo this January, will be released later this summer, creating two new pairs of harpy eagles in Panama.

To avoid imprinting on humans, the eagle was fed via a harpy eagle hand puppet. Now, until the birds learn to hunt on their own, biologists place food high in the forest canopy, where the eagles live. Biologists living in the rainforests near the release site monitor the birds daily. Harpy eagle chicks are dependent on their parents for more than two years so biologists fill the released birds' parent role until they mature. Radio transmitters allow scientists to track the birds as they travel through dense forests.

Rare Bongo Antelope Embryos Implanted into Wild Elands

In a new effort to manage and repopulate species of endangered animals, a team of scientists from the Audubon Institute Center for Research of Endangered Species (CRES) are the first to implant frozen embryos from captive animals in one continent into wild animals in another.

The experiment involved freezing 20 microscopic African bongo embryos from CRES and the Baton Rouge Zoo in liquid nitrogen and transporting them to the Mount Kenya Game Ranch, a private wildlife preserve. There, female elands (Tragelaphus eurycerus) had two embryos implanted once it was determined that their uteruses were at the right stage to accept the embryos (Taurotragus oryx). (Elands occasionally bear twins, so if both develop there won't be a problem.)

Bongos and elands are similar in size but differ in behavior, environment and activity level. As a consequence, the results will be analyzed behaviorally as well as biologically. Since the animals would be reintroduced into the wild from birth, this experiment also negates the criticism of current reintroduction methods-that captive-raised animals may lack survival skills and natural immunity to diseases or suffer from the difficulties of acclimatization.

Team members will return to Kenya in February to gauge the results. CRES members hope the work will continue for the next 5-10 years, with two trips a year.

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