Northwest Trek Wildlife Park near Eatonville Washington has been honored for its work in helping to save pygmy rabbits in the Columbia Basin. The North American Conservation Award was jointly given to Northwest Trek and the Oregon Zoo at the recent annual meeting of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums in Kansas City, Mo.
Here are more details as reported in the South Pierce County Dispatch:
The award, which Northwest Trek has won two years in a row, recognizes exceptional efforts toward regional habitat preservation, species restoration, and support of biodiversity in the wild.
“The conservation of Northwest endangered species, like the Columbia Basin pygmy rabbit, is central to our mission,” said Gary Geddes, director of zoological and environmental education for Metro Parks Tacoma, which operates Northwest Trek. “We’re gratified to know that we have played a role in aiding the recovery of these tiny rabbits in the wild.”
Northwest Trek’s dozen-year effort to help save the endangered rabbit concluded in 2012. The park released its last breeding rabbits and their offspring in 2010, but staff and volunteers continued to support the program through 2012, building rabbit enclosures and fences in Ephrata.
Only 15 of the tiny rabbits remained when the program began in 2000. Northwest Trek was among the first in the world to successfully breed them.
In the last 13 years, more than 1,600 pygmy rabbits were born through the efforts of Northwest Trek, Oregon Zoo and conservation partners at Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and Washington State University.
The rabbits are now breeding successfully in the wild at Sagebrush Flat Wildlife Area in eastern Washington under close supervision by state and national wildlife officials.
The pygmy rabbit project was instrumental in laying the foundation for Northwest Trek’s future partnerships on other endangered and threatened species, including the Oregon spotted frog, the Western toad, and the fisher and trumpeter swan, Geddes said.
You can see more about the pygmy rabbit project at http://www.dispatchnews.com/2013/10/21/saving-tiny-rabbits-earns-big-award/
The pygmy rabbit is one of only two species of rabbits in America that dig their own burrows. They are the world’s smallest rabbits, with adult males weighing barely one pound and females only slightly larger.