(Nov. 7, 2023, St. Louis, Mo.) The Saint Louis Zoo announced its 2023 Conservation Award and three other Saint Louis Zoo Awards at its 32nd Annual Marlin Perkins Society Celebration on Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2023. The Marlin Perkins Society has grown from 48 to more than 1,300 members over the past 32 years and has generated nearly $40 million in revenue — all to help fund Zoo operations.
The Saint Louis Zoo Conservation Award was presented to Dr. Crickette Sanz and Dr. David Morgan. Dr. Sanz and Dr. Morgan serve as co-directors of the Goualougo Triangle Ape Project (GTAP) in and around the Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park, Republic of Congo. Their dedication to international collaboration and scientific rigor has shaped GTAP’s trajectory, elevating it to a globally recognized initiative that helps ensure the long-term survival of chimpanzees and gorillas in the Congo Basin.
Sanz, a Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis, and Morgan, a Research Fellow of the Lester E. Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes at Lincoln Park Zoo, have melded their expertise to forge a profound impact on ape preservation. For over a decade, the Saint Louis Zoo WildCare Institute has championed GTAP, offering program support and amplifying its reach. In 2019, the partnership reached new heights with the establishment of the WildCare Institute Center for the Conservation of Congo Apes. Dr. Sanz and Dr. Morgan’s field-based conservation activities have improved the livelihoods of the communities through capacity building and employment as research staff, field monitors and university positions.
This year, their tireless advocacy reached a peak when the Congolese government formalized the protection of the Djéké Triangle, a transformative step toward preserving diverse wildlife and high conservation value forests. The Djéké Triangle’s newfound status within the Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park marks a historic triumph for ape conservation, safeguarding the habitats of western lowland gorillas and chimpanzees. GTAP is the only site to habituate both these ape species.
In honoring Dr. Crickette Sanz and Dr. David Morgan, the Saint Louis Zoo celebrates a transformative partnership that has reshaped ape conservation and is the essence of the 2023 Conservation Award.
The Saint Louis Zoo Individual Award was presented to Dr. Nick and Judy Kouchoukos. When Judy and Nick talk about “their Zoo,” they invite others to share in the joy of supporting and cherishing one of the many organizations others to share in the joy of supporting and cherishing one of the many organizations that they hold dear to their hearts. Their impact on the St. Louis community ripples throughout multiple generations in many ways.
Dr. Kouchoukos is a retired, world-renowned cardiac surgeon at Washington University in St. Louis and Missouri Baptist Medical Center. He and Judy established the Kouchoukos Cardiac Education Center at Missouri Baptist as an interactive and low-stress way to teach people of all ages and health levels about heart health. They also established an endowed Research Fellowship for Cardiothoracic Surgery at Washington University in St. Louis so that capable surgeon-scientists will be available to future generations of patients.
Judy’s heart beats with the animal world. She fits in naturally on the Board of Directors for Duo Dogs and the Zoo, and she is a constant advocate for the Marlin Perkins Society and the Zoo’s efforts. She helped ensure a successful ZOOFARI 2019 as co-chair of the event. Together with Nick, they have and continue to enhance the Zoo’s past and current initiatives. Their efforts are recognized at Polar Bear Point, Grizzly Ridge and Primate Canopy Trails, and they are 11-year Marlin Perkins Society members. The Kouchoukos’ pass on their personal motivations for philanthropy down to their children and grandchildren. The Saint Louis Zoo is grateful for their years of support, leadership and dedication to the Zoo’s mission.
The Saint Louis Zoo Corporate Award was presented to Spire. Spire has been a strong champion of the Saint Louis Zoo since 1984. Committed to sustaining the Zoo’s animal care and operational excellence, Spire has been a Marlin Perkins Society member for over 13 years; sponsors Wild Lights annually; and has contributed to multiple Zoo capital campaigns, including The Living Promise Campaign that helped build Grizzly Ridge and Polar Bear Point. When the Zoo acquired the property in north St. Louis County — now Saint Louis Zoo WildCare Park — Spire donated the labor to move the original gas line from the middle of the property to the perimeter so animal conservation areas could be constructed safely. This significant first step started WildCare Park’s transformation.
In recent years, Spire’s field operations team has volunteered to help remove honeysuckle at WildCare Park and the Saint Louis Zoo Sears Lehmann, Jr. Wildlife Reserve in Franklin County, aligning with the company’s environmental sustainability goals of restoring and protecting open spaces. Not only do they walk the walk, but the Spire team continues to talk the talk through educating Zoo guests about clean fuel and energy efficiency at the Zoo’s annual Climate Solutions Day. The Saint Louis Zoo would like to thank Spire for its civic commitment to the Zoo’s current and future conservation aspirations.
The Pershing Charitable Trust received the Saint Louis Zoo Foundation Award. Headquartered in St. Louis, the Pershing Charitable Trust was established as a private charitable foundation in 1968 by Oliver M. Langenberg to support non-profit organizations operating for educational, humanitarian and cultural purposes. The Trust fulfills its mission by providing grants and other financial contributions to non-profit organizations located primarily in the St. Louis metropolitan area. The Trust, along with the late Oliver and Mary Langenberg, and son Bill Polk and his family, championed the mission of the Saint Louis Zoo for many years. The Trust has been a dedicated Marlin Perkins Society member for 19 years and was an early investor in creating the Saint Louis Zoo WildCare Park in north St. Louis County. In addition, the Trust provided generous funding for a number of other special initiatives through the years, including The Living Promise Campaign and Zoo Endowment.
The family’s involvement with the Zoo goes back years, as Mary was an early volunteer in the gift shop and Bill’s first summer job was working in the Charles H. Yalem Children’s Zoo. Beyond its leadership with the Zoo, the Trust supports organizations such as the International Institute, Urban League, St. Louis Symphony, Saint Louis Art Museum, Forest Park Forever and many other worthy causes. The Saint Louis Zoo is deeply grateful for the many years of support provided by the Pershing Charitable Trust and the Langenberg and Polk families.
About the Awards
The Individual, Corporate and Foundation Awards are presented by the Saint Louis Zoo Association to honor those Zoo supporters and advocates whose commitments exceed expectations in contributing both time and resources to the Zoo.
The Saint Louis Zoo Conservation Award is presented by the St. Louis Zoological Park Subdistrict Commission to recognize the achievements of someone who has contributed to the understanding and appreciation of wildlife throughout his or her lifetime.