Sean and Mittie | FMASSC & ACRES: A Hidden Gem 5

FMASSC & ACRES: A Hidden Gem


Audubon Nature Institute is well-known for its preservation efforts in New Orleans and abroad, as well as its beautiful zoo, so when a friend offered to show us their research and conservation center, we jumped at the chance. The largely unknown FMASSC, Freeport McMoRan Audubon Species Survival Center, is a beautiful facility staffed with knowledgeable handlers who genuinely love their animals, treating them with the respect they deserve. They also do reproductive research at a facility on grounds called ACRES, the Audubon Center for Research of Endangered Species. We were amazed by the size of the facility and the technology employed to preserve and care for these animals.

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First, we visited the Dixie, one of the Saddle-billed storks, who was absolutely beautiful. The keepers have been working on introducing a male and female for breeding, however it can take as much as 7 years of courting before they might build a nest. The female is more interested in the humans that bring her food than the male, and she makes it evident, strutting in near the fence as we look on from a distance.

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Next we saw the eland which had been used in a previous program as surrogates for bongos, whose population is dwindling. Currently they’re all female, ranging between 600-900 lbs. It was interesting to learn about them and see their distinct personalities.

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After that we met Cassie, a gorgeous 300 lb lion born in captivity, living on 1.5 acres. We had the privilege of watching her feed – the handlers gave her a couple of chickens and several rounds of beef which they placed all around her grounds. One of the chickens was placed in a tree and it fascinated us to watch her pull down a tree branch to get her chicken.

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One of the highlights was visiting the Servals, sub-Saharan African cats which can reach a height of 8 feet jumping from a standing position and 16 feet from a running position. Another highlight was visiting Jazz, the first African Wildcat born by a surrogate from a frozen and then thawed egg, and the first ever clone of a carnivore, an African Wildcat named Ditteaux.

Sean and Mittie | FMASSC & ACRES: A Hidden Gem 1

Most impressive was their Whooping Crane breeding program, one of wildlife’s greatest conservation success stories, spanning over 20 acres. Surprisingly, 11 of the 15 crane species are threatened with extinction due to hunting and habitation loss. In 1940 there were only 20 Whooping Cranes left in the wild. Now over 500 strong, the Crane Program focuses on Whooping Crane breeding, and the chicks become part of the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP). Some learn their migration route from Wisconsin to Florida by following an ultra-light plane. Learn more at

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Got thoughts to share about the FMASSC or ACRES research facility? Tell us in the comments below!

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