The 2015 Saint Louis Zoo Conservation Award went to Daniel M. Ashe, Director of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the nation's principal federal agency dedicated to the conservation of fish and wildlife and their habitats.
"Under Dan Ashe's leadership, the USFWS has enabled the Saint Louis Zoo to undertake conservation efforts from the Pacific Islands to our own state of Missouri," said Jeffrey P. Bonner, Ph.D., Dana Brown President and CEO of the Saint Louis Zoo. "We could not enjoy the successes we have had without the support and encouragement of the agency that Dan leads so well."
Mr. Ashe was confirmed in 2011 as the 16th Director of USFWS after a lifetime spent within USFWS. His father's 37-year USFWS career meant much of Mr. Ashe's childhood was spent on national wildlife refuges and at fish hatcheries.
Mr. Ashe has served as Science Advisor to the Director of USFWS, providing leadership on science policy and scientific applications for resource management. He shaped an agency agenda toward a science-driven, landscape conservation business model and developed guidelines for scientific peer review and information quality. He built a state-of-the-art, electronic literature databank and strengthened relationships with other federal agencies and scientific professional societies.
Before being named USFWS Director, Mr. Ashe served as Chief of the National Wildlife Refuge System, directing operations and management of the 150-million-acre National Wildlife System and USFWS' land acquisition program. He also led the migratory bird management and North American wetlands conservation programs, contributing to significant advances in the impact and effectiveness of both.
The Zoo also presented three Saint Louis Zoo Awards to outstanding community leaders at its 24th annual Marlin Perkins Society Celebration on Nov. 18, 2015.
The Saint Louis Zoo Individual Award went to Bill and Kerry Holekamp, longtime Zoo supporters and friends. They are members, major gift donors, special event patrons and legacy donors.
Bill Holekamp served as a Trustee on the Zoo Foundation (now the Saint Louis Zoo Association) from 1997 to 2006 and again from 2008 to 2010. He also served in various leadership capacities during that time.
The generosity of Bill and Kerry Holekamp to the Zoo is recognized at the Rhino Viewing Area in River's Edge and the Wildlife Granary at the Orthwein Animal Nutrition Center. Most recently their leadership support was recognized at the aqua tunnel at Sea Lion Landing in Sea Lion Sound. Their participation in The Living Promise Campaign has helped build new exhibits, improve infrastructure and visitor amenities and strengthen the Zoo's endowment. The Holekamps have been Marlin Perkins Society members for 16 years.
Nestlé Purina PetCare Company received the Saint Louis Zoo Corporate Award. Nestlé Purina's support of the Zoo goes back more than 25 years, when its predecessor company – Ralston Purina—supported the Saint Louis Zoo.
Nestlé Purina has contributed to the success of a variety of Zoo events over the years, including ZOOFARI and A Zoo Ado (the Zoo's major fundraisers), and has participated in the last two initiatives to raise private funds for a range of causes. The company is recognized at the Entrance Plaza to the Emerson Children's Zoo for its 1996 gift to the Gateway to the Animal World Campaign.
Most recently Nestlé Purina made a gift of $1.2 million to support The Living Promise Campaign—a multi-year initiative that ended at year-end 2014 having raised $134 million in gifts and commitments and exceeding its $120 million goal. In tribute to the company's love for ALL dogs, Purina's gift is recognized at Purina Painted Dog Preserve—one of three new River's Edge animal habitats opened in June 2014.
The Tilles Foundation received the Saint Louis Zoo Foundation Award. The Tilles Foundation, established in the 1920s, is well-known in the region for grants and scholarships, providing funding to "kids who need a helping hand."
The Tilles Foundation's over $400,000 in grants to the Zoo over the past 15 years have supported a range of projects. The Foundation funded the addition of specialized train cars and accessibility ramps at each of the Zooline Railroad stations, allowing visitors with mobility issues to enjoy the train.
The Tilles Foundation also provided a grant for the installation of power-assist doors to the buildings on Historic Hill—the Charles H. Hoessle Herpetarium, Peabody Hall, the Primate House and Jungle of the Apes are all equipped with these doors to improve access for disabled visitors.
Most recently, the Foundation funded construction and equipment for a stand-alone Distance Learning Studio in the Zoo's Education Department. This studio allows Zoo educators to provide instruction and share conservation messages with children and students in North and South America, Africa and Asia.
ABOUT THE MARLIN PERKINS SOCIETY: In 1991, the Marlin Perkins Society was formed to honor one of the Zoo's great directors. The Society, which was formed with only 48 members, provides a way to recognize those individuals, corporations and foundations that generously support the Zoo on an annual basis. The Marlin Perkins Society membership has exceeded the 1,080 members, generating $1.8 million annually to help fund Zoo operations.