The Jean M. Hromadka AAZK Excellence in Animal Care Award was recently awarded to Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Garden zookeepers Mary Ann Cisneros, Bobbi Crouch, Sarah Duncan and Rachel McKee. The team was recruited to hand rear two Mexican gray wolf pups and oversee their fostering to an adult pair of wolves at the zoo. These four zookeepers put in over 700 hours of efforts during the process. They join a very specialized group of individuals who are directly involved in the Mexican Gray Wolf Species Survival Program. The two males offer significant gains in diversifying the genetic population of the wolves.

The American Association of ZooKeepers (AAZK) is a membership association for animal care professionals. Each year AAZK recognizes outstanding achievements within their organization. It is the first time Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Garden professionals have been awarded this top honor. Rachel McKee said, “While it is awesome to have our efforts recognized, the bigger victory is for this species — this is a huge win for the Mexican gray population!”

The Mexican gray wolf is the most endangered wolf species in the world. Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Garden officials are working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to increase the population of wolves both through captive and in-the-wild monitoring. Native territories for the wolves include Arizona, New Mexico and the country of Mexico.

Visitors to Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Garden from October 21st through 25th have the opportunity to learn more about the Mexican gray wolf during daily Keeper Chats at 10:30 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. at the Mexican gray wolf exhibit. Keeper Chats are free with admission.

Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Garden is open 365 days a year. For additional information on Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Garden, including details on zoo membership and admission prices, visit www.meskerparkzoo.com.