Program areas at Audubon Nature Institute
Audubon Nature Institute marked many successes in 2019. The combined attendance at Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, Audubon Zoo, Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium, and Entergy Giant Screen Theater grew to 2.2 million visitors, and revenue from admissions was $18.0 million. Audubon Nature Institute's program service total for operation and management of all facilities was $33,162,968, which includes salaries incurred by Audubon Nature Institute employees. These salary costs were reimbursed by a management contract with Audubon Commission. With an eye on the future, Audubon remained committed to protecting the wonders of nature through outstanding guest experiences, educational opportunities, and developing partnerships. In September, Audubon hosted the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and International Marine Animal Trainer's Association's 2019 Annual Conference, which drew nearly 3,000 zoo and aquarium professionals to New Orleans. During the Conference, Audubon was recognized with the 2019 Excellence in Marketing Award for its "Audubon Zoo Lights presented by Children's Hospital 2018" campaign. This award recognizes excellence in marketing campaigns by AZA member facilities. Audubon also kept Conference events eco-friendly. Food and drinks were offered in recyclable and compostable serving ware, and waste bins for recycling and compositing were available. Audubon partnered with Schmelly's Dirt Farm, a local composting business, to make this initiative a success, and together, they kept over 5,000 pounds of waste out of landfills. Audubon looks forward to continuing to forge innovative partnerships on waste reduction and other green initiatives in the future.Audubon kicked off the year by signing on with a new advertising agency of record, Trumpet Advertising. This shift to a new creative agency elevated Audubon's efforts to align messaging with guest interests and animal conservation. Trumpet is responsible for collaborating on digital strategy, brand positioning, and creative campaigns to promote Audubon's attractions and mission. The agency also played a key role in Audubon's revisioning process, which will inform future organizational strategies and communications.Audubon Aquarium of the Americas and Audubon Zoo were once again among the top winners of the USA TODAY 10Best Readers' Choice travel award contest. The Aquarium ranked 3rd and the Zoo secured 9th place among 20 nominees that were "hand-picked by a panel of zoo and family travel experts."In May, Orleans Parish voters voted in overwhelming favor for a new parks and recreation millage that would benefit Audubon's public parks, City Park New Orleans, NORDC, and New Orleans Parks and Parkways. The plan ushers in a new era of cooperation and collaboration among the four agencies that manage New Orleans' public greenspaces and recreational facilities.In the spring, lions returned to Audubon Zoo. A new, spacious habitat welcomed a pride of four lions: sisters Kali, Nia, and Zuri and male Arnold and has room to accommodate cubs, which is fortunate, since Kali was found to be expecting at the end of the year. In October, Audubon celebrated the 30th anniversary of the opening of Woldenberg Riverfront Park, which was developed with a generous gift from the Dorothy and Malcolm Woldenberg Foundation. The Park gave the City its first direct access to the downtown Mississippi riverfront and provided a setting for Audubon Aquarium of the Americas and Entergy Giant Screen Theater. The Park spans 17 acres of green space, contains numerous works of art, and has become home to several iconic New Orleans events, such as French Quarter Festival, Zulu Lundi Gras, and New Orleans Fireworks Celebrations like Go 4th on the River and New Year's Eve on the Riverfront.Critical conservation work continued at Freeport-McMoRan Audubon Species Survival Center on the West Bank of New Orleans, which is home to conservation programs such as the Alliance for Sustainable Wildlife, the Coastal Wildlife Network, and Gulf United for Lasting Fisheries. Whooping crane breeding and release efforts continued to thrive with an expanded flock and the release of 11 juvenile cranes into the wild. Coastal Wildlife Network became Louisiana's only marine animal stranding network in October 2019. CWN is also the sole program responsible for the rehabilitation of sea turtles and marine mammals in Louisiana. CWN staff cared for a stranded green sea turtle affectionately dubbed "Hulk" for 4 months beginning in April 2019 and collaborated with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to release him back into the wild in July.In 2019, Audubon's continued leadership in local efforts to fight plastic pollution garnered awards, including the 2019 Keep Louisiana Beautiful Everyday Hero Award for Corporate Leadership and the 2019 Love Your City Resource Management Award. Audubon challenged employees and community members to participate in EcoChallenge.org's Plastic Free July initiative, with Audubon's "Plastic Free New Orleans" team coming in third place among teams across the country. As part of the push to educate the community on the harms of single-use plastics and the importance of finding alternatives, Audubon youth volunteers hosted a popular free screening of the documentary "Straws" at Entergy Giant Screen Theater.Thanks to the Taylor/Audubon Students and Scholars Program, more than 219,000 high-achieving students in grades 7 through 12 statewide received free Audubon Memberships as part of the ongoing initiative established by the Patrick F. Taylor Foundation to reward Louisiana students' hard work.Audubon expanded its commitment to educating our community about the wonders of nature through Audubon Community Connect. This new initiative increases accessibility to Audubon Zoo, Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium, and Audubon Louisiana Nature Center for Orleans Parish residents. The Audubon Community Connect program involves three components: Orleans Parish Appreciation Days, which offer free admission to a rotating Audubon attraction on Wednesdays; the Audubon SNAP Program, which provides free admission every day for SNAP benefit recipients and their families; and the Audubon Museum Culture Pass, which allows Orleans Parish Public Library cardholders to check out admission passes.Audubon celebrated new births, including Bulan, the critically endangered Sumatran orangutan, three tomistomas, a porcupette, three Home's hinge-backed tortoises (the first successful hatching of this species at Audubon Zoo), Ruby the barasingha deer fawn, nine annulated tree boas at the Zoo and cownose and yellow stingrays, yellow seahorses, and euphyra (swimming moon jellyfish) at the Aquarium. The Species Survival Center enjoyed a baby boom consisting of giraffe, sable antelope, bongo, eland, sitatunga, whooping cranes, and Mississippi sandhill cranes.The Zoo also welcomed some new members of the Audubon family from other conservation organizations, including Liem the Malayan tiger, a two-toed sloth, a female babirusa named BB, a pair of red river hogs, a Baird's tapir named Ixchel, a Wolf's guenon named Fontina, a golden lion tamarin named Brazil, an armadillo named Louise, and three lace monitors. At the Aquarium, hooded Merganser ducks and blue-spotted stingrays joined the family.In summer 2019, Audubon Louisiana Nature Center invited guests to discover the biological wonders of sanguinivores-creatures that eat blood-in its Interpretive Center, which is free to the public. "Attack of the Bloodsuckers!" explored the science of what's biting you in this skin-crawling installation. The kid-friendly temporary exhibition examined the what, why, when, and how of mosquitoes, fleas, ticks, leeches, and other parasites. Guests learned why bloodsuckers are important to the ecosystem-and how to keep them out of your system.Add the end of the year, the Butterfly Garden and Insectarium added a colony of honeypot ants in the Main Hall. The colony was generously donated by Isaac's Ant Foundation. Honeypot ants are usually found in arid or semi-arid habitats, and the species (Myrmecocystus mexicanus) on display at the Butterfly Garden and Insectarium comes from particularly hot, dry parts of the southwestern United States. Honeypot ants do not make honey. Rather, they make honey-like liquids that are stored in the ants themselves.