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About Audubon Nature Institute

Audubon Nature Institute is a family of ten museums and parks dedicated to nature. We are a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization serving our visitors, our community and our world as an educational resource, an environmental guardian, a leader in economic development and a venue for family entertainment.


Audubon Nature Institute's purpose of Celebrating the Wonders of Nature is woven into our vision of creating a family of museums and parks dedicated to nature. This vision is fulfilled by eight objectives that support our mission:

  • Provide a guest experience of outstanding quality
  • Exhibit the diversity of wildlife
  • Preserve native Louisiana habitats
  • Educate our diverse audience about the natural world
  • Enhance the care and survival of wildlife through research and conservation
  • Provide opportunities for recreation in natural settings
  • Operate a financially self-sufficient collection of museums and parks
  • Weave quality entertainment through the guest experience

Audubon Nature Institute’s family of museums and parks include:

Audubon Commission

The Commission is, in effect, a board of trustees. Appointed to a six-year term by the Mayor with the consent of the City Council, the Commission is composed of 24 registered voters of the City of New Orleans. It retains all authority granted to it by Louisiana State Act No.191 of 1914. It has specific authority to approve and control design and development of its projects. All monies from bond or tax revenues, approved by the voters of New Orleans for the Audubon Commission, are administered by the Commission. Title to all improvements, furnishings and equipment at the facilities remains in the name of the City of New Orleans via the Audubon Commission.

Meet Our Commission Calendar Minutes

J. Kelly Duncan: President
Daniel O. Conwill IV: First Vice President
Boysie Bollinger: Second Vice President
Linda G. Baum: Secretary
K. Barton Farris, MD: Treasurer

Gayle Benson
Storey Charbonnet
Angus Cooper
Frances Fayard
Rashida Ferdinand
Ashley Francis
Deborah D. Harkins
Bruce R. Hoefer, Jr.
Beth Lambert
Olivia Manning
Helena Moreno
Catherine Morrell
Peter Moss
Field Ogden, MD
Pamela Ryan
Charles C. Teamer
Tom Watson
Carol B. Wise
D. Brent Wood


Wednesday, December 2, 2015: The Audubon Commission voted to keep property tax rates unchanged in 2016.

The tax rate will remain at 3.31 mills, which includes 2.99 mills to support Audubon Aquarium of the Americas and Woldenberg Riverfront Park and .32 mills to support Audubon Zoo. Because 2016 is a reassessment year, the Audubon Commission first had to "roll back" the millage to keep the taxes revenue-neutral, then vote to roll them forward.

The owner of a home valued at $250,000 will see an increase of $3.33 per year as a result. This amounts to less than a penny a day.

That is expected to generate about $10.55 million in 2016, an increase of about $350,000 (about 3.4%) from 2015. The additional revenue will be used for infrastructure needs, including a new fire suppression system for the Aquarium. The bulk of the millage revenue is used to pay off bonds to build and improve the Aquarium, Woldenberg Riverfront Park, the Zoo and Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium.


The Audubon Nature Institute Board oversees Audubon Nature Institute, the 501(c)3 not-for-profit corporation currently managing day to day operations for all of the Commission’s facilities through a management contract between the Board and the Audubon Commission. All employees work for the Audubon Nature Institute, Inc. Elected by the 30,000 membership households of Audubon Nature Institute, at least 75% of the Institute’s 32 Board members live in Orleans Parish and at least 25% of them are minorities. Members are elected for no more than two consecutive four-year terms. Funds generated by the Institute’s operations and fund raising efforts are administered by the Institute. Certified audited statements of the Audubon Nature Institute are provided to the Audubon Commission on an annual basis.

Meet Our Board Calendar Minutes

Joseph A. Jaeger, Jr.: Chairman
Christopher Bardell: First Vice Chair
Mark Romig: Second Vice Chair
Lynes R. Sloss: Recording Secretary
Allison B. Tiller: Corresponding Secretary
Vincent J. Palumbo: Treasurer
Wilmer Jacobs: Parliamentarian
Leslie P. Gottsegen, DDS: Immediate Past Chairman

Byron A. Adams, Jr.
Robert W. Brown
Jennifer D. Charpentier, MD
Henry L. Coaxum, Jr.
Cecile V. Colhoun
Stephanie S. Feoli
Paul Fine
John F. French
Jeffrey B. Goldring
Jennifer S. Heebe
André V. Hooper
Deirdre O. Hooper, MD
Stephen Kupperman
F. Theodore Le Clercq
Ronald Markham
Nolan A. Marshall, III
John Payne
J. Stephen Perry
Julie Quinn
Charles L. Rice, Jr.
Virginia F. Rowan
Michael O. Smith
Katherine B. Werner
Thomas D. Westfeldt II


The Audubon Nature Institute Foundation is a 501(c)3 support organization whose mission is to manage and increase the Audubon Nature Institute endowment while it provides additional operating revenues for Audubon’s facilities. The Board consists of eight members, of which one is the Chairman of the Audubon Nature Institute Board. The other seven members are elected by the Board membership for a three-year term.

Meet Our Foundation

Audubon Nature Institute Foundation
William A. Goldring: Chairman
Stephanie S. Feoli: Vice Chairman

Linda G. Baum
Catherine H. Cary
Leslie P. Gottsegen, DDS
Joseph A. JaegerJr.
Peter E. Moss II
Charles C. Teamer, Sr., Ph.D.

Executive Staff

L. Ronald Forman, President and Chief Executive Officer

A past president of the American Zoo and Aquarium Association, Ron Forman began his tenure with Audubon Park and Zoological Garden in 1972 as City Hall liaison. Made Deputy Director in 1973 and Executive Director in 1977, the major transformation of Audubon Zoo from an "urban ghetto" to an "urban Eden" was underway.

Today, Ron Forman oversees a family of attractions and facilities that make up the dynamic Audubon Nature Institute, leading a staff of 600 people in the Audubon mission of conservation and education.

Forman serves locally on the New Orleans Business Council, is Chairman of the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District and the Immediate Past Chairman of the New Orleans Metropolitan Convention & Visitors Bureau. A past member of the Board of Directors of the American Association of Museums, he is also on the Advisory Committee of Chimp Haven.

Read more about Ron Forman

Audubon Nature Institute Senior Staff:

  • Ron Forman—President and Chief Executive Officer
  • Bill Kurtz—Senior Executive Vice President and Chief of Staff
  • Laurie Conkerton—Executive Vice President, Chief Administrative Officer
  • Richard Buchsbaum—Vice President of Food & Beverage and Special Events
  • Steve DorandSenior Vice President of Design & Exhibitry
  • Chimene Grant—Vice President of Marketing
  • Joel Hamilton—Vice President and General Curator
  • Debra McGuire—Vice President/Gift Shops
  • Toni Mobley—Senior Vice President, Chief Service Officer
  • David NiebuhrVice President of Education and Acting Managing Director of Uptown Facilities
  • Jason Recher—Managing Director of Westbank Facilities
  • Caroline TierneyDirector of Finance
  • Rich TothVice President and Managing Director of Downtown Facilities
  • Ashley McClaran—Vice President of Construction

Audubon Nature Institute is committed to transparency. As a successful example of the public/private partnership model, Audubon values its role as a steward of the public trust. A fiscally responsible 501(c)3 non-profit, Audubon Nature Institute is an enduring and ethical community partner which effectively manages its collection of attractions and facilities on behalf of the City of New Orleans.





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Capital Projects

Magic, wonder, connection—Audubon Nature Institute attractions inspire these feelings. Connection to nature; a sense of wonder at the incredible world around us; the magic of the continuing circle of life—each visit to an Audubon attraction is filled with all this.

Audubon's guests have grown to expect the sense of wonder that comes with the discovery of new and exciting features. These capital projects are important for a number of reasons. New features throughout Audubon Nature Institute generate visitation, which in turn generates revenue to keep Audubon at the leading edge of conservation, education and quality family attractions. New projects implement the latest in enrichment and technology, incorporating newest and best practices in management for Audubon's cherished collection of animals, many of which are critical to breeding programs to stem the tide of extinction. These projects also fuel the economy of our region, providing jobs and economic impact.

Recently Completed Projects:

Capital Projects In Progress:

Capital Projects Planned for the Future:

  • Cool Zoo III
  • Cooper Plaza lighting
  • Asian Elephants III including new tiger habitat, lorikeets and primates
  • Jaguar Jungle II with nocturnal house
  • Louisiana Swamp Cafe improvements
  • African Savannah
  • Penguin Parade
  • Wetlands Gallery


  • 2008: Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium is the first major attraction to open in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina, adding more fun and foot traffic to Canal Street.
  • 2006: Audubon Aquarium reopens the following spring with the joyous return of its penguins, signaling recovery is indeed underway.
  • 2005: Hurricane Katrina is a heart-stopping milestone. In November, tears flow as Audubon Zoo welcomes weary residents back to their Zoo in an emotional homecoming.
  • 2003: Audubon invites educators and community groups to take advantage of the Jeri and Robert Nims Community Center, a community meeting room and resource center at Audubon Zoo.
  • 2001: Guests are welcomed into the heart of Audubon Zoo with a dynamic new front gate, including a palm-line promenade and a large, colorful flock of flamingos.
  • 2001: The challenging Audubon Golf Course changes the face of golfing in New Orleans when it is renovated and opened to the public in Audubon Park.
  • 2000 : An Audubon Park tradition is renewed with the construction of Audubon Tea Room, replacing an iconic building destroyed by fire in the 1970s.
  • 1998: A stunning example of innovation in immersive exhibitry, Jaguar Jungle opens at Audubon Zoo with spider monkeys, anteaters and jaguars within a setting filled with authentic reproductions of ancient Central American structures.
  • 1996: Audubon Center for Research of Endangered Species brings new focus to the Survival Center. The Research Center logs 26 scientific firsts and earns Audubon Nature Institute worldwide accolades in conservation.
  • 1995: Entergy IMAX® Theatre opens on the New Orleans Riverfront.
  • 1994: Audubon assumes operation of Louisiana Nature Center.
  • 1993: Audubon opens a secluded 1200-acre breeding center for endangered species, Freeport-McMoRan Audubon Species Survival Center.
  • 1990: Audubon Aquarium of the Americas opens and introduces family tourism to downtown New Orleans.
  • 1986: Voters approve a $25 million bond issue to build Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, located in a brand new space that took the dilapidated New Orleans riverfront and, for the first time, opened it up and renovated it so everyone could enjoy it.
  • 1960s – 1970s: Audubon Zoo suffers severe disrepair. The public demands closure unless changes happen. Friends of the Zoo forms, and Audubon Zoo is on its way to world-class. As a private, not-for-profit, Audubon Zoo generates operating funds from revenue earned, managing the Zoo (and future attractions and facilities) on behalf of the City of New Orleans. Cities nationwide take notice as the Zoo opens natural habitat exhibits where animals thrive and attendance soars.
Our History

Audubon Nature Institute has its roots in historic Audubon Park, a natural setting for family recreation since the 1800s, and Audubon Zoological Gardens, which evolved from a single flight cage built in 1916 to a 58-acre jewel ranking among the nation’s best zoos. Along the way, Audubon grew into a respected steward for economic leadership, conservation and environmental education.

Strong public and private support drove the Zoo’s phoenix-like rise in the 1970s when it replaced cramped cages with lush natural habitat, evolving from an “animal ghetto” to an “urban oasis.” The success of the Zoo provided impetus for future Audubon projects, inspiring enduring community support and commitment.

Audubon Nature Institute created Woldenberg Riverfront Park in 1989, giving the city its first direct access to the downtown Mississippi riverfront and providing a beautiful setting for Audubon Aquarium of the Americas (1990), where visitors explore fascinating aquatic environs ranging from the Great Maya Reef to the Amazon Rainforest. Freeport-McMoRan Audubon Species Survival Center, a 1,200-acre sanctuary where threatened animals live and breed undisturbed, debuted in 1993. Audubon Louisiana Nature Center, an 86-acre preserve within the New Orleans city limits, joined the family in 1994. Entergy IMAX® Theatre opened in 1995 at the Aquarium, utilizing the most advanced motion picture technology available. In 1996, Audubon Center for Research of Endangered Species opened to develop assisted reproduction techniques to breed disappearing species. Also that year, Audubon Wilderness Park began operating as an educational “field” resource for life science study by school, camp, and scout groups. In 2008, Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium became the first major attraction to open in post-Katrina New Orleans, signaling that recovery was underway.

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill  in 2010 proved Audubon was capable of nimble response to yet another disaster. Working closely with state and federal agencies, Audubon created a kind of sea turtle triage facility at the Audubon Aquatic Center on the Survival Center campus, setting protocol and focusing expertise and resources on caring for several hundred turtles injured in the spill.

In 2012, Audubon entered into an historic partnership with San Diego Zoo Global to create a new program for breeding disappearing Zoo animals on the site of the Freeport-McMoRan Audubon Species Survival Center. Other new programming at the Survival Center included Gulf United for Lasting Fisheries (G.U.L.F), dedicated to the conservation of U.S. fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico. In 2013, implementation began after years of careful planning and a fair amount of red tape to rebuild Audubon Louisiana Nature Center, which was destroyed as a result of Hurricane Katrina.

Audubon Nature Institute is committed to “Celebrating the Wonders of Nature” every day in this city where celebrations are woven into the basic fabric of life. Each member of the Audubon family is unique, but essential to the overall character of the collection. Our success is measured in such tangibles as visitor attendance, the births of disappearing wildlife, the substantial economic impact on our community, and the smiles on the faces of the children who visit us all year long.

Read the Full Story

Mailing address: Audubon Nature Institute 6500 Magazine St. New Orleans, LA 70118
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