ASHEBORO, NC – A photograph of an arctic fox by John Ireland, an employee at the North Carolina Zoo, has won a national award from the Association of American Zoos and Aquariums. Ireland’s photograph graces the cover of the AZA’s December issue of “Connect” magazine.

Ireland, a horticulture technician at the zoo since 1998, is an avid photographer. He is highly regarded for his bare-bones technique which relies on natural lighting and no props to capture the personalities, moods, and expressions of his animal subjects. Ireland frequently uses his lunch hours to photograph the beautiful landscape and many animals at the zoo using his 35mm camera and a 75-300mm and 18-55mm lens.

Ireland’s work has been featured in a variety of media from newspapers and magazines to websites, including that of the AZA. One of his photographs is also featured on the cover of Benjamin Beck’s “The Ape.” 

 “It’s crazy!” Ireland says. “I just feel so much happiness and so much pride!”

The North Carolina Zoo is equally proud of John Ireland and his beautiful art that depicts many of the zoo’s 2,000 animal residents in such an authentic and respectful way.                                                                                           

About the North Carolina Zoo

The North Carolina Zoo provides an experience like no other zoo anywhere. With five miles of exhibits, nearly 2,000 animals and 52,000 plants it is the largest natural habitat zoo in the world and an international leader in wildlife conservation.

Find yourself surrounded by some of Africa’s giants including elephants, rhinos, and giraffes; share the love of gorillas with Mosuba and his six-member troop; polar bears Nikita and Anana take polar plunges every day at the Rocky Coast Exhibit, or join in the fun at the mud café in the Kidzone.

Located in center of the state in Asheboro, it is convenient to visit from anywhere in North Carolina. The North Carolina Zoo welcomes nearly 750,000 guests each year. Plan your adventure at


About the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources 

The North Carolina Zoo is an agency of the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. The N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources (NCDNCR) is the state agency with a vision to be the leader in using the state’s natural and cultural resources to build the social, cultural, educational and economic future of North Carolina. Led by Secretary Susan Kluttz, NCDNCR's mission is to improve the quality of life in our state by creating opportunities to experience excellence in the arts, history, libraries and nature in North Carolina by stimulating learning, inspiring creativity, preserving the state’s history, conserving the state’s natural heritage, encouraging recreation and cultural tourism, and promoting economic development.

NCDNCR includes 27 historic sites, seven history museums, two art museums, two science museums, three aquariums and Jennette’s Pier, 39 state parks and recreation areas, the N.C.  Zoo, the nation's first state-supported Symphony Orchestra, the State Library, the State Archives, the N.C. Arts Council, State Preservation Office and the Office of State Archaeology, along with the Division of Land and Water Stewardship. For more information, please call (919) 807-7300 or visit