African Forest exhibit at Florida zoo wins national award
The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens has received a national award for its African Forest exhibit. The zoo was presented with the Exhibit Award for Innovation by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums this month at the 2020 AZA Virtual Annual Conference.
“The construction of African Forest was a milestone for us at Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens and a testament to how we have spent more than 106 years at the very forefront of animal care and wellness, wildlife education and conservation," said Tony Vecchio, the zoo's executive director. "Coupling a wellness-inspired design with a multisensory rich environment not only enhances the guest experience, but also creates a shared understanding of and passion for animal conservation.”
African Forest opened in September 2018 as a 2.7-acre, wellness-inspired habitat. Choices, challenges and variation in exhibit design are key features within the area, housing western lowland gorillas, bonobos, mandrills, Angolan colobus monkeys, guereza colobus monkeys, Coquerel’s sifaka, ring-tail lemurs, black and white ruffed lemurs, blue-eyed black lemurs and mongoose lemurs.
The zoo has a behavioral wellness team, led by Terry Maple, that studied the animals prior to construction and continues to document optimal animal welfare and wellness. To win the award, the exhibit must provide high-quality animal care, incorporate strong educational programming, provide state-of-the-art safety for employees and guests, deliver an immersive guest experience and demonstrate a connection to conserving the species in the wild.
African Forest is the third exhibit at the zoo to be recognized through the AZA Exhibit Award. In 2005 the zoo received Top Honors for Range of the Jaguar. In 2015 Land of the Tiger was recognized with Significant Achievement for its exhibit design.
Here's more good news:
• Gabriella Solano, a teacher at West Riverside Elementary, was recently named the inaugural Wolfburg Fellow for Social Justice in Education during a surprise virtual announcement at her school. Solano teaches Spanish language arts and science for fourth- and fifth-grade students in the school's dual-language program.
As the first Wolfburg Fellow, she will receive a total value of at least $7,000 for professional learning, including participation in Jacksonville Public Education Fund’s Teacher Leadership Initiative and a classroom research project to explore issues of identity and representation with her students.
“Diversity and inclusion are two of the main reasons I became a teacher,” Solano wrote in her application. “As a Latina who was underrepresented in school, I experienced firsthand what it was like to not feel included and validated in school. As I learned more in my undergraduate course work, I knew I wanted to choose a career that could affect change. Education has the power to create an enormous impact on these issues.”
Brian and Jake Wolfburg created the fellowship, which is administered by the education fund and awarded to one teacher annually, in recognition of the diverse fabric of their family and to create an inclusive, supportive and loving community for all individuals and families within the community. Brian Wolfburg is the CEO of VyStar Credit Union.
The Wolfburgs joined a virtual all-staff meeting in mid-September at West Riverside to make the announcement. The education fund arranged for a bouquet of flowers to be delivered to the door of Solano's home, where she is teaching virtually, just as she learned the news of her selection.
• A Baker County landowner has received national recognition for his conservation efforts and environmental practices. The Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies has given Doug Moore and the South Prong Plantation the Private Lands Fish and Wildlife Stewardship Award, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
South Prong Plantation is a working, multi‐use timberland operation that provides wildlife habitat, recreation opportunities and a living classroom to teach others how to be better land stewards.
“I am honored to receive this national award. I thank all the forest and wildlife agencies, friends and family that made it happen,” Moore said. “It has always been a passion of mine to own a large timber property that I could manage, share and introduce others into learning more about our great outdoors. I am living my dream.”
“Private lands are critical for Florida’s native wildlife and the efforts of landowners like Doug should be celebrated,” said Eric Sutton, executive director of the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. “His contributions are a great example of the important role private landowners play in conserving Florida’s habitats and wildlife populations for future generations to enjoy.”
The commission has worked closely with Moore over the years as part of the agency’s Landowner Assistance Program.
• Carolyn Baggett, a registered nurse at Baptist MD Anderson Cancer Center in Jacksonville, was recently announced as one of four winners in Cure magazine’s Lung Cancer Heroes awards program, which recognizes individuals who have gone above and beyond, making a difference in the lives of those affected by the disease.
Baggett is a lung cancer screening program coordinator at Baptist MD Anderson. She started working at Baptist Medical Center in 2014 as an oncology nurse navigator, caring for several stage 4 lung cancer patients and assisting their families. When lung cancer screening was recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force in 2013, Baggett was motivated to develop a program to help detect lung cancer at an early stage. In December 2015 the program launched and has grown substantially.
Cure Media Group is a leading multimedia platform devoted to cancer updates and research. A virtual event honoring the program winners will take place Oct. 15.
“Each of these esteemed individuals has contributed to improving the lives of lung cancer patients,” said Mike Hennessy Jr., president and CEO of MJH Life Sciences, parent company of Cure Media Group.