Silver Spring, MD & Asheboro, NC  - Oct. 17, 2018 – The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) announced that the North Carolina Zoo has been recognized with two of AZA’s 2018 William G. Conway International Conservation Awards during AZA’s September conference in Seattle. These awards recognize exceptional efforts toward habitat preservation, species restoration, and support of biodiversity in the wild. Winning projects are recognized as models of zoo-driven global conservation movements.


The first award, for innovation in conservation, is for the Zoo’s work on the Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool (SMART) project. The Zoo received this prestigious award along with its collaborating partner, the Wildlife Conservation Society. The North Carolina Zoo and Wildlife Conservation Society, along with other partners, began developing SMART in 2011. SMART is a high-tech system that uses mobile devices, databases, and sophisticated analysis tools to help prevent poaching of wildlife. Since its initial development, SMART has grown to become the global standard for managing protected areas like national parks.


“By developing SMART, the North Carolina Zoo and our partners are helping to put cutting-edge technology in the hands of those on the front lines of conservation,” said Dr. Rich Bergl, director of conservation, education, and science for the North Carolina Zoo. “The broad scope of SMART adoption has shown that this tool is really meeting a critical conservation need.”


More than 600 national parks and other reserves are currently using SMART in more than 55 countries around the world. Eleven countries have officially adopted SMART as their national standard for conservation law enforcement monitoring.


The second award is for the “Scaling Up Community-based Rhino Conservation in Namibia” project. The Zoo received this award with its collaborating partners the Houston Zoo and Minnesota Zoo. By establishing the Conservancy Rhino Ranger Incentive Program, a new collaborative, local-level rhino protection program, this project has quintupled the number of trained, equipped and motivated locally-appointed rangers and increased patrol effort and rhino sightings in Namibia by 850% and 450%, respectively, since 2012.  Additional collaborative partners on the project include Save the Rhino Trust, Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conservation, Namibia Nature Foundation, and the Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism.


“With saving species as our mission, AZA-accredited aquariums and zoos collectively contribute over $200 million per year to conservation efforts around the globe,” said AZA President and CEO Dan Ashe. “Both of these projects are inspiring examples of the differences AZA professionals are making through research and field conservation projects.”


“The North Carolina Zoo is proud to be partnering with other zoos and conservation organizations around the world on developing and implementing these award-winning programs,” said Pat Simmons, director of the North Carolina Zoo. “These are great examples of how zoos are making a difference to protect wildlife globally. With this and other initiatives, the North Carolina Zoo is helping to ensure that endangered species like gorillas, rhinos and elephants have a bright future.”


To learn more about AZA’s Honors and Awards, please visit


About the North Carolina Zoo

At the North Carolina Zoo, we celebrate nature. As the world’s largest natural habitat Zoo, we inspire a lifelong curiosity about animals for the hundreds of thousands of people who visit our Zoo each year. Our dedicated team of experts provides exceptional, compassionate care for the more than 1,600 animals and 52,000 plants that call our Park home. We also lead efforts locally and globally to protect wildlife and wild places because we believe nature’s diversity is critical for our collective future. The North Carolina Zoo invites all of our guests to witness the majesty of the wild in the heart of North Carolina and welcomes everyone to join in our mission to protect nature’s diversity. Visit to begin your life-changing journey. 


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