Rick Hudson Recipient of Behler Conservation Award

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Rick Hudson Recipient of Behler Conservation Award

Fort Worth Zoo staff member given top honors for ongoing conservation work with turtles and tortoises

FORT WORTH, Texas – Fort Worth Zoo Conservation Biologist Rick Hudson has been given the 2013 Behler Turtle Conservation Award, given in honor of his outstanding 33-year career in turtle conservation.

The international award, presented jointly by the Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group and Turtle Survival Alliance, honors leadership and excellence in the field of tortoise and freshwater turtle conservation. It is considered one of the highest honors in the field.

Hudson, a native of Stuart, Va., began his career at the Fort Worth Zoo in 1980 as an assistant curator in the herpetology department. His turtle conservation work took off in the mid-1990s, when he began assisting in the restructuring of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) collection plans in order to make them more conservation-focused. He also established a successful breeding program of endangered Asian turtle species in the Fort Worth Zoo’s herpetology department.

In 2001, as a response to the Asian turtle crisis, Hudson played a fundamental role in the founding of the Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) with a simple mandate: bring together diverse human and financial resources to preserve options for the recovery of wild turtle populations and ensure zero turtle extinctions. Now, the organization is a global force in turtle conservation, with worldwide field programs and an annual budget of more than $1 million. Hudson currently serves as TSA president and chairman of the board.

In 2009, Hudson led Turtle Survival Alliance teams on missions to Myanmar, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore, and produced a five-year strategic plan for turtle conservation in Myanmar.

“Rick has devoted his life’s work to the conservation of countless species,” said Tarren Wagener Wiggans, Fort Worth Zoo director of animal programs and conservation. “His tireless dedication to turtle conservation has led directly to many of these animals coming back from the brink of extinction. His knowledge and energy have been a catalyst for turtle conservation throughout the world. He is deserving of such a great honor.”

Prior to his turtle conservation work, Hudson led groundbreaking efforts to save threatened Caribbean iguana species, including organizing and chairing the Lizard Advisory Group for the AZA. He also implemented a workshop in Kingston, Jamaica, that ultimately led to the recovery of the Jamaican iguana and the Fort Worth Zoo receiving the International Conservation Award in 2000. He has continued his efforts in iguana conservation by serving as the executive director of the International Iguana Foundation, an organization responsible for funding conservation efforts in Central America, Fiji and the Caribbean.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature/Species Survival Commission Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group (TFTSG) and Turtle Survival Alliance established the Behler Turtle Conservation Award, a major annual award to honor leadership and excellence in the field of tortoise and freshwater turtle conservation. The award honors the late John L. Behler, previous chair of the TFTSG and curator of herpetology at the Bronx Zoo, Wildlife Conservation Society, New York, who passed away at an untimely early age in 2006. In addition to honoring the life-time achievements of senior turtle and tortoise conservationists, the Behler Award also honors current conservation efforts by younger individuals who are making major contributions to the field.

The nationally acclaimed Fort Worth Zoo has been ranked the No. 5 zoo in the nation by USA Travel Guide and the No. 1 attraction in the DFW Metroplex by Zagat survey. The Zoo is home to more than 500 animal species and a world-famous reptile collection, housed in the brand new Museum of Living Art (MOLA). The institution’s focus on education and conservation is second to none, enhancing the lives of more than 1 million visitors a year.


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Alexis Wilson, Communications Director