Recent gifts totaling $575,000 have been made to the development of Arkansas State University’s American Red Wolf Conservation & Research Center (ARWCRC) at Craighead Forest Park in Jonesboro.
A fundraising goal of $5 million has been established to support the center, which is expected to escalate the university’s role in education, preservation and population growth for the American red wolf, which serves as ASU’s mascot and is the most critically endangered wolf in the world. Only about 250 red wolves, which are native to Arkansas and the southeastern United States, remain alive with fewer than 17 known to be in the wild in North Carolina, according to university officials.
Recent support includes:
- A $300,000 grant from Jonesboro Advertising & Promotion Commission that will be used for city park improvements associated with the project, which will help meet the A&P mission of promoting tourism and producing a positive impact on Jonesboro businesses.
- Two grants totaling $158,000 funded by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) and awarded by the Conservation Centers for Species Survival for construction costs associated with new fence enclosures, which will help the agency achieve its goal of doubling the nation’s red wolf population.
- Private gifts of $117,000, including a $50,000 contribution by national wildlife conservation leaders Dale Weiler and Loti Woods of Weiler Woods for Wildlife in Tryon, N.C., and a $50,000 gift by A-State Distinguished Alumnus John Bobango and his wife, Lisa, of Germantown, Tenn.
Preliminary plans, subject to fund-raising efforts, call for a 5,600-square-foot education and operations facility and six highly secured fence enclosures on 10 acres to oversee at least 12 red wolves from the existing population managed by the national Red Wolf Species Survival Plan program. Participation in the breeding program is designed to assist in the USFWS goal of doubling the red wolf population in captivity.
The ARWCRC is also expected to establish Jonesboro as a national ecotourism destination for visitors, said Jeff Hankins, vice president for strategic communications and economic development for the Arkansas State University System and the project leader with Dr. Tom Risch, vice provost of research and technology transfer.
“We’re creating a unique national research and conservation laboratory for our students and faculty that could also have a $60 million economic impact on Northeast Arkansas tourism over the next decade,” Hankins said. “Potential students and travelers are looking for unique experiences, and this center will create one. The American red wolf is an iconic and important species in the ecosystem, and it just happens to also be A-State’s beloved mascot. We’re uniquely positioned to escalate red wolf education, research, awareness and population with a collaborative development.”
Hankins said the proposed center involves multiple entities, including the City of Jonesboro, Jonesboro A&P Commission, the USFWS, the Red Wolf SSP, the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, the Endangered Wolf Center in St. Louis and the Little Rock Zoo.
Weiler’s 200-pound, alabaster stone sculpture, “Just Settling In,” depicts a red wolf with her pup and has been temporarily on display at Bradbury Art Museum. It will be permanently featured at the new red wolf facility as part of a planned endangered species art collection. Soon a casting of the sculpture will be featured at the Embassy Suites Red Wolf Convention Center in Jonesboro.