Department Of Interior

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Contact:: Dick Cole or Steve Farrel, US Fish & Wildlife Service, (703) 358-1886 or 2247 Mike Morgan, National Zoological Park, (202) 673-0209
For Immediate Release: July 2, 2003

Deputy Secretary Griles, National Zoo Director Spelman Join
Dolly Parton at Dedication of Bald Eagle Refuge Exhibit

Partnership with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Made Exhibit Possible

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) July 2, 2003 - Deputy Secretary of the Interior Steve Griles and Smithsonian National Zoo Director Lucy Spelman today joined entertainer Dolly Parton and conservation leaders to officially open the zoo's "Bald Eagle Refuge Exhibit" -- the culmination of a groundbreaking partnership between the zoo, conservation organizations and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

"The new Bald Eagle Refuge exhibit will offer a close-up view of the American bald eagle while educating visitors, especially children, about our National Wildlife Refuge System," said Griles. "Eagles are majestic symbols of America, and zoos and wildlife refuges have played a vital role in protecting this treasured national symbol."

"As we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Wildlife Refuge System, we invite people to visit a wildlife refuge to view bald eagles and other spectacular wildlife," he said. "Most people can find a zoo or a wildlife refuge within an hour's drive of their homes; they're a great way to teach our children about the natural world."

According to Spelman, zoos and wildlife refuges are natural partners in a shared conservation mission. "This exhibit will draw visitors to a sometimes overlooked part of the National Zoo and it is an important step in our revitalization efforts. Beginning on the Fourth of July, we invite everyone to come out and welcome these magnificent birds to their wonderful new home," she said.

Housed in a natural setting under a dome of nearly invisible netting, the bald eagles will be easily seen by visitors through openings in a perimeter of bushes, trees and other foliage. The exhibit can be found in the heart of the National Zoo on Valley Trail (map attached), which features great North American wildlife, including wolves and sea otters.

"Bald eagles have symbolized our country's freedom and heritage for more than 220 years, said Parton. "We are excited and proud that Dollywood and the American Eagle Foundation are donating these two majestic birds to the National Zoo and are playing a special role in dedicating this new eagle exhibit celebrating America's National Wildlife Refuge System."

The two flightless eagles living in the new exhibit -- Sam and Tioga -- were injured birds rescued from the wild and nursed back to health by the American Eagle Foundation. Sam, a female, was found in Washington while Tioga, a young male, was rescued in Pennsylvania. The AEF, headquartered at Dolly Parton's Dollywood entertainment park in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., is federally licensed to provide care to more than 70 birds of prey, including 35 eagles. These birds cannot be released into the wild due to permanent physical disabilities or accidental imprinting on humans. Since 1990, the Dollywood entertainment park has been the foundation's primary corporate sponsor.

The National Zoological Park is a bureau of the Smithsonian Institution, the world's largest museum and research complex. The Smithsonian consists of 16 museums and galleries, in addition to the National Zoo. The National Zoo is a 163-acre zoological park in the heart of Washington D.C. Open to the public 364 days a year; it is home to about 3,100 individual animals of 435 different species. Its mission is to celebrate, study, and protect wild animals and their habitats.

The National Wildlife Refuge System was created in 1903 by President Theodore Roosevelt to protect our natural resources. Like the National Zoo, national wildlife refuges offer spectacular wildlife viewing opportunities and educate thousands of children and adults each year about wildlife. But national wildlife refuges are also places to enjoy outdoor pursuits like fishing, photography, hunting, and hiking. There are refuges in every State and one within an hour's drive of most major cities.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 94-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses 541 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource offices and 78 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces Federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.


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