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Linda Matthews-Schmidt
Johnson Space Center, Houston
281/483-5111

Brian Hill
Houston Zoo
713/801-8040

08.18.06
 
RELEASE : J06-091
 
 
NASA, Zoo Set Ribbon Cutting for Prairie Chicken Facility
 
 
NASA’s Johnson Space Center and the Houston Zoo will dedicate a new breeding facility for the endangered Attwater’s prairie chicken at the space center in a 9:30 a.m. CDT ribbon cutting Friday, Aug. 25.

Media planning to attend must notify the JSC newsroom at 281-483-5111 no later than 4 p.m. CDT Thursday August 24. The schedule of events includes:

8:30 a.m. - Media tour at prairie chicken breeding facility near Bldg. 423 with Houston Zoo Bird Curator Hannah Bailey.

9:00 a.m. - Invited guests arrive at facility.

9:30-10:00 a.m. - Ribbon-cutting ceremony at prairie chicken breeding facility. Welcome/Remarks by JSC Director Michael L. Coats, Houston Zoo President and CEO Deborah Cannon and Zoo Director Rick Barongi.

10:05-10:20 a.m. - Tour of breeding facility for guests.

The new facility, located on about two acres of land within the gates of JSC, stems from a 2005 agreement between the zoo and NASA. The breeding facility is part of JSC’s educational outreach program, which fosters the next generation of explorers by encouraging young people to study scientific and technical subjects. The facility gives area students an opportunity to see first-hand the importance of habitat conservation and protection.

Before the JSC facility opened, the Houston Zoo bred Attwater’s prairie chickens in a small off-exhibit facility on zoo grounds near the busy McGovern Children’s Zoo. The new facility, within the gates of JSC, provides a quiet, secure and safe environment.

The zoo began breeding Attwater’s prairie chickens in 1994 with two dozen eggs taken from the nests of wild flocks in Texas. Today there are 24 birds in the zoo’s program, with a goal to increase the number of birds so the population can survive without human intervention.

The ground-dwelling Attwater’s Prairie Chicken is a medium-size grouse, with brown, black and buff-colored feathers. The birds once occupied about 7 million acres along the Texas and Louisiana coasts. Only about 1 percent of that prairie remains. Loss of habitat, predation and hunting so reduced the bird’s numbers that they were declared endangered in 1967.
 

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