Silver Spring, Maryland - The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) today announced that the North Carolina Zoo has received its 2009 Significant Achievement Award for Exhibit Design for its Watani Grasslands Reserve project.

"The North Carolina Zoo a leader in innovative exhibits that provide great habitats for the animals and meaningful educational opportunities for its visitors," said AZA President and CEO Jim Maddy. "The AZA Significant Achievement Award provides well-deserved national recognition for this important endeavor."

With its annual Exhibit Award, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums recognizes excellence in the area of live animal display and exhibit design by an AZA-accredited Institution (US or International) or Related Facility member.

Watani Grasslands Reserve is an $8.5 million expansion and renovation of the North Carolina Zoo's African Elephant and Southern White Rhinoceros habitats and holding facilities. The project enhances the viewing experience for visitors and will allow the Zoo to increase the breeding potential for these two highly threatened species.

"The completion of the Watani Grasslands Reserve has given us a great opportunity to combine the philosophies of what we stand for into a single complex," said North Carolina Zoo Director Dr. David Jones. "It is a state-of-the-art facility in terms of elephant and rhinoceros husbandry while providing a visual context in which visitors can picture a highly wooded African savannah. The exhibit also incorporates a wide variety of interpretive components and techniques which invite onlookers to consider the unique natural history of these species and how we are helping to ensure their survival."

Founded in 1924, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of zoos and aquariums in the areas of conservation, education, science, and recreation. Look for the AZA logo whenever you visit a zoo or aquarium as your assurance that you are supporting an institution dedicated to providing excellent care for animals, a great experience for you, and a better future for all living things. With its more than 200 accredited members, the AZA is a leader in global wildlife conservation, and your link to helping animals in their native habitats. For more information, please visit