Matchmaking gone wild: Audubon teams up with San Diego Zoo to save rare species

NEW ORLEANS -- An Audubon-owned "survival center" on the West Bank has teamed up with the world-famous San Diego Zoo to share and breed rare animals -- and ultimately save species from extinction.

The partnership between the Audubon Nature Institute and San Diego Zoo Global became official today, when the Alliance for Sustainable Wildlife showed off the wild animals in the program.

Since mid-spring, New Orleans has acquired 28 new hooved, four-legged residents, including a very rare find.

Michelle Hatwood, curator for the Freeport-McMoRan Audubon Species Survival Center, says the Opaki is in the giraffe family.

Zoo conservationists show off an Opaki, a rare species

"They kind of look like a cross between a horse and a zebra, but they are their own species," she said. "They live alone in the forest, and they just come together for breeding."

This is the first partnership of its kind between two animal conservation leaders.

So far, it's been a fruitful union, with a new giraffe due Oct. 16.

The Survival Center sits on 1,200 acres of U.S. Coast Guard and city-owned land along the Mississippi River, according to the Audubon Nature Institute's website.