The Saint Louis Zoo has recognized a group of individuals and organizations with its prestigious Conservation Award and other honors.

(from left) Zoo president and CEO Jeffery Bonner, Jean Noel, Karen Freeman and WildCare Institute executive director R. Eric Miller photo courtesy of S. Carmody Photography

At the recent 26th annual Marlin Perkins Society Celebration, the zoo awarded its 2017 Conservation Award to research director Karen Freeman and manager Jean Noel of the Madagascar Fauna and Flora Group. MFG is a consortium of international zoos, aquariums, botanical gardens and universities who work in partnership with the Malagasy Government to conserve its rich biodiversity. The MFG is headquartered at the Saint Louis Zoo.

Freeman and Noel have worked together in Madagascar’s Betampona Natural Reserve for the past 13 years with support from the MFG and the Zoo’s WildCare Institute Center for Conservation in Madagascar.

“To date, the survival of its endangered plant and animal populations can be wholly attributed to the continual presence of the Madagascar Fauna and Flora Group’s research team and these two amazing individuals in the forest,” said Jeffrey Bonner, Dana Brown president and CEO of the Saint Louis Zoo.

Besides her extensive research, Freeman works to build relationships with local and national officials in charge of environmental affairs, university professors and students, mayors and village leaders, NGOs and a network of researchers to draw attention to the significant threat invasive plants pose to the ecological structure of Betampona and other Malagasy rainforests.

Noel’s passionate commitment to his native land’s flora and fauna is demonstrated by the attention and care he pays to organizing the logistical needs of each researcher that works in Betampona. He has dedicated the past 20 years to protecting the rainforest that was approximately two miles from where he grew up in Madagascar.

Robert and Kathy Williams photo courtesy of S. Carmody Photography

Also recognized at the annual dinner were Kathy and Robert Williams, Jr., who received the 2017 Individual Award for their 20 years of support through financial and volunteer service commitments. They have been members of the Marlin Perkins Society for more than 17 years, and have also been involved with the zoo’s Heritage Society, The Living Promise Campaign and the Zoo Association Board. The Williamses’ company, Williams Patent Crusher & Pulverizer, has provided several in-kind gifts, such as the metal gates that can be seen around the perimeter of the Zoo, and much more.

In addition, the Corporate Award was presented to one of the zoo’s largest corporate sponsors, Mid America Chevy Dealers. Most recently, Chevy expanded its partnership with the zoo by presenting the zoo’s newly available public Wi-Fi. Chevy has given more than $1.3 million in support of the Zoo since 2013.

Receiving the Foundation Award is the John Allan Love Charitable Foundation, which has provided more than $300,000 in support to the zoo through the past two capital campaigns, and is recognized at the Bird Nursery Building, Sea Lion Sound and Centene Grizzly Ridge. Additionally, many of the foundation’s trustees are personal members and supporters of the zoo. The foundation was founded in 1974 by John Allan Love, a St. Louis businessman who had a strong interest in the city’s culture and community service organizations.