Financial support for Arkansas State University's proposed Red Wolf Conservation & Research Center has reached $575,000, the university announced.
The planned 10-acre center, which includes a 5,600-SF education and operations facility, aims to elevate the university's role in education, preservation and population growth for the American red wolf. The red wolf is the most critically endangered wolf in the world, with only about 250 known to be alive, the university said in a news release.
The university, which adopted red wolves as its mascot in 2008, has a fundraising goal of $5 million for the project.
So far, funding includes a $300,000 grant awarded by the Jonesboro Advertising & Promotion Commission, money that will be used for city park improvements associated with the project. The Austin, Texas-based Conservation Centers for Species Survival has contributed $158,000 through grants funded by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. That money will be used to build fence enclosures for at least 12 wolves.
“Our vision for this facility is lofty, and we’re grateful for these generous early commitments of support to help us move forward,” Tom Risch, ASU vice provost of research and technology transfer, said in the release. “This is an extraordinary undertaking not only for the benefit of national red wolf conservation, but also for students and faculty who want to embrace this opportunity for wildlife ecology education and research.”
Private gifts have come from conservationists Dale Weiler and Loti Woods, who gave $50,000, according to the release. The two run Weiler Woods for Wildlife in Tryon, North Carolina. Another $50,000 came from Memphis lawyer and university alumnus John Bobango and his wife Lisa.
The center is expected to make Jonesboro a national ecotourism destination, said Jeff Hankins, vice president for strategic communications and economic development for the ASU System. Hankins, who is leading the project with Risch, said it could have an economic impact of $60 million in northeast Arkansas over the next decade.
“Potential students and travelers are looking for unique experiences, and this center will create one," Hankins said in the release. "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."