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Association of Zoos & Aquariums Top Leader Releases Rehabilitated Great Horned Owl at the Great Plains Zoo

June 20, 2018

Dan Ashe, President and CEO of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums and the former Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, released a rehabilitated Great Horned Owl back into the wild today at the Great Plains Zoo. Ashe is visiting the Great Plains Zoo to help celebrate this week’s Grand Opening of the Fortress of the Bears exhibit. 

The fledgling Owl was brought to the Zoo after the bird was found by construction workers buried in a gravel truck and unable to fly. Because it was a young Owl, it needed time to develop its adult feathers, needed for flight. Then, Zoo staff worked with it to help refine its flight and hunting skills in an outdoor training area. After a successful rehabilitation, the Owl was released in a secluded area of the Great Plains Zoo, allowing it to return to the wild.  
“Dan Ashe’s distinguished career as a champion for conservation is inspiring,” said Elizabeth A. Whealy, Zoo President and CEO.  “It’s an honor to have him here with us, and even more special for us to be able to return a healed bird back to the wild, where it belongs.”  Whealy works closely with Ashe, serving on the national Board of Directors of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. 

In addition to caring for more than 1,000 animals, the Great Plains Zoo serves as a regional rehabilitation facility for native wildlife. In this role, the Zoo actively rehabilitates wild birds that are sick or injured for re-release into the wild. In addition to raptor rehabilitation, the Zoo’s conservation efforts include hands-on regional field work with turtles, otters, moose, and other native species, and both staff and financial support of global field projects. The Zoo also participates in 43 Species Survival Plans working to save endangered and threatened species. 

The Great Plains Zoo & Delbridge Museum of Natural History is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. – 7 p.m. and Sundays from 11 a.m. – 7 p.m., with the last admission at 6 p.m. Visit the Zoo online at, or call 605-367-7003 for more information about the Zoo and Museum.


The Great Plains Zoo and Delbridge Museum of Natural History is a non-profit organization dedicated to fostering a greater understanding of our natural world through education, conservation, recreation and discovery. The Great Plains Zoo is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) – a leader in wildlife conservation. Less than 10% of animal institutions in the United States have met the high standards for AZA accreditation.

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