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Taronga Conservation Society Australia received the Zoo and Aquarium Association In Situ Conservation Award for their Regent Honeyeater Release and Habitat Reconstruction project. The project was met with industry acclaim at a gala awards dinner cruise held on Sydney Harbour last night. Representatives from Taronga Conservation Society attended the event, and were amongst a number of key players from the international zoo and aquarium industry.

The Zoo and Aquarium Association Awards recognise innovative initiatives in the zoo and aquarium industry, outstanding conservation activities, zoo and aquarium exhibit designs, as well as the top education and in situ conservation activities of 2010 – 2011.

The Regent Honeyeater Habitat Release and Habitat Reconstruction program has made a significant contribution to the declining Regent Honeyeater population which was once found throughout the temperate woodlands and forests in South-eastern Australia, and now exists in only a few fragmented populations in New South Wales and Victoria.  The project addresses two primary threatening processes identified by the National Recovery Team; population decline, and habitat degradation.

As part of the Recovery Plan, 71 Regent Honeyeaters have been released from Zoo and Aquarium Association institutions.  These birds have demonstrated long term survival and integration with wild populations.  Further, the Taronga education team has developed a community engagement and habitat restoration program in key Regent Honeyeater habitat.

Vice President of the Zoo and Aquarium Association, Karen Fifield said:

 “The Regent Honeyeater Release and Habitat Reconstruction project has been highly successful...Our zoos and aquariums not only work behind the scenes in conservation, husbandry and research, but they also play a vital role in educating the community about the steps they can take to ensure the future biodiversity of our natural environments and the wildlife we share our planet with.”

Martin Phillips, Executive Director of the Zoo and Aquarium Association said; “The exhibits, innovations, and campaigns awarded tonight provide a vital link between people and wildlife. These visitor experiences are a powerful tool to inspire the next generation of conservationists.

Zoos and aquariums are the caretakers of our future. For many species they represent the last hope for survival with habitat destruction, logging and increased urbanisation destroying forests faster than they can be protected.”

The Zoo and Aquarium Association Awards were created seven years ago to encourage member zoos and aquaria to attain higher achievements for wildlife on behalf of the community.  The members come from throughout Australia, Papua New Guinea, New Zealand and Oceania.

Other award winners included Sea World for their Penguin Encounter Exhibit, Zoos Victoria and Melbourne Zoo for their Don’t Palm Us Off campaign and Zoos Victoria and Melbourne Zoo for their Don’t Palm Us Off Campaign.

Symbio Wildlife Park received recognition for their ‘Sumatran Tiger’ exhibit. Hamilton Zoo were awarded for their Weka Walk exhibit. The Association Award for Professional Excellence was bestowed upon Cairns Tropical Zoo’s Michael O’Brien for his tireless commitment and dedication to the Association membership over his 25 year career.

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