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Saint Louis Zoo Conservation Award Goes To Conservationist Amy Dickman, Ph.D., Director of Ruaha Carnivore Project

Patricia G. Hecker, Eaton Corporation, The Bellwether Foundation Also Honored

The 2016 Saint Louis Zoo Conservation Award was presented to Amy Dickman, Ph.D., Director of the Ruaha Carnivore Project (RCP). Part of Oxford University's Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU), the project develops effective conservation strategies for large carnivores in Tanzania's remote Ruaha landscape.

The Zoo presented this and three other Saint Louis Zoo Awards to outstanding community leaders at its Nov. 17 Silver Anniversary Marlin Perkins Society Celebration. The Marlin Perkins Society has grown from 48 to 1,117 members over the past 25 years and has generated nearly $23 million in revenue over its 25-year history—all to help fund Zoo operations.

In citing the accomplishments of this year's Conservation Award recipient, Jeffrey P. Bonner, Ph.D., Dana Brown President and CEO of the Saint Louis Zoo, said, "Amy Dickman has made remarkable progress through her tireless commitment to saving wild things and wild places. She established this conservation project in 2009 and in the past several years has used a multi-faceted approach to reduce human-animal conflict and build strong community benefit initiatives and support. Amy and her team have converted lion killers into lion conservationists and in doing so, saved countless animals."

A finalist for the prestigious Tusk Award in 2014 and winner of the 2011 Rabinowitz-Kaplan Prize honoring the best of the next generation of wild cat conservationists, Dr. Dickman has spent 18 years working to save carnivores in Africa—first in Namibia with the Cheetah Conservation Fund and for the past 12 years in Tanzania. The author of more than 50 scientific publications, she holds a Ph.D. from University College London and a master's degree from Oxford University.

The organization she founded now has a permanent staff of 18 based at a camp a few miles outside the border of Tanzania's Ruaha National Park and employs nearly 70 Tanzanians through the project. The first challenge for RCP was to address livestock security by creating protective barriers, bringing in Anatolian shepherd dogs and designating local youth and expert trackers as "lion defenders" who monitor movement of predators, warn communities of carnivore presence, chase lions away from households and stop lion hunts. RCP has also provided books and equipment to schools and medicine and equipment to local clinics. In addition, herders receive veterinary care for their livestock. This work has been very successful at reducing carnivore attacks on livestock and carnivore killings by local people.

Individual Award

The Saint Louis Zoo Individual Award went to Patricia G. Hecker, longtime Zoo supporter and friend. Mrs. Hecker and her husband, the late Harvard Hecker, are longstanding conservationists. They were founding members of the Wild Canid Survival and Research Center, now the Endangered Wolf Center, established in 1971 by Marlin Perkins and his wife Carol.

The Heckers were among the first to serve on the Saint Louis Zoo Friends Association Board of Directors. Mrs. Hecker was the first woman appointed to the Saint Louis Zoo Subdistrict Commission in 1980. In 2015, she served as an honorary co-chair of the inaugural WildCare Institute benefit along with Zoo Director Emeritus Charlie Hoessle.
To honor her husband and his love of Africa, the Hecker family endowed the Harvard K. Hecker African Wildlife Conservation Fund at the Saint Louis Zoo to support the WildCare Institute's work in southern and east Africa. In 2004, the Saint Louis Zoo established the WildCare Institute, which is dedicated to creating a sustainable future for wildlife and for people around the world.

The Heckers are also members of the Zoo's Heritage Society in recognition of their legacy gift plan to grow their endowed fund.

Corporate Award

Eaton Corporation received the Saint Louis Zoo Corporate Award. A global technology leader in power management and in developing and manufacturing electrical hydraulic and mechanical power solutions, Eaton provided two gifts totaling $20,000 to the recently completed The Living Promise Campaign. The company is recognized at McDonnell Polar Bear Point and will be recognized at Grizzly Ridge when this new habitat for grizzly bears opens in 2017.

Eaton is also a $10,000 sponsor of U.S. Bank Wild Lights and has been a corporate Marlin Perkins Society member for five years. In addition, the company has supported the Zoo through multiple in-kind gifts of its products.

Not only is Eaton donating all of the electrical needs for the Grizzly Ridge exhibit, the company in 2015 also donated a transformer in record time to replace one that stopped working suddenly at the Charles H. Hoessle Herpetarium. Finally, Eaton is working to replace electrical panels in the animal barns in Red Rocks. All of these projects bring the value of their in-kind gifts to more than $100,000.

Foundation Award

The Bellwether Foundation received the Saint Louis Zoo Foundation Award. This Foundation supports the St. Louis community by providing funds to organizations that anticipate the future in the arts, computer science, education, finance, health care, medicine and social sciences.

The Foundation has provided strong support to the Zoo for several years. In 2011, this organization provided a $200,000 grant to create The Bellwether Foundation Education Fund, which supports the operations of the Zoo's Education Department.

In 2012, the Foundation provided a $2 million grant, which is recognized at the Polar Bear Interaction Area at McDonnell Polar Bear Point. The Bellwether Foundation provided a generous leadership grant of $3 million to the Association to advance construction of Grizzly Ridge at the end of 2015.

The Bellwether Foundation trustees have also been involved at the Zoo in a number of capacities, including being members of the Marlin Perkins Society and serving on the Zoo Association Board and various committees.

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