Saint Louis Zoo’s Dr. Cheryl Asa Receives AZA National Recognition in Scientific Advancement

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Saint Louis Zoo’s Dr. Cheryl Asa Receives AZA National Recognition

in Scientific Advancement



Silver Spring, Maryland (September 23, 2015) – The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) on Sunday, Sept. 20, at its annual conference in Salt Lake City announced that Cheryl Asa, Ph.D., the Saint Louis Zoo Director of Reproductive and Behavioral Sciences Department and of the AZA Reproductive Management Center, has received AZA’s Devra Kleiman Award for her outstanding scientific research contributions to the fields of animal management, education and conservation.


In March 2014, AZA established the award, named in memory of Devra Kleiman, the Smithsonian’s National Zoo’s former Director of Research who worked in the 1990s to save, reintroduce and repopulate golden lion tamarins in Brazil.  Dr. Kleiman also contributed to advancements in cooperative breeding programs among zoos.  This honor was first awarded posthumously to Devra Kleiman in September 2014, making Dr. Asa only the second person to receive this honor.


A highly respected scientist, Dr. Asa over her 35-year career is a pioneer in the field of wildlife reproductive research.  In 1999 she founded the AZA Wildlife Contraception Center, which analyzes data on the efficacy of contraceptives and generates recommendations for their use in animals in zoos and aquariums to manage reproduction.  The AZA recently announced an expansion of the program’s scope to include enhancing as well as controlling reproduction, an approach called Lifetime Reproductive Planning.  Because of its expanded mission, the center’s new name is the AZA Reproductive Management Center at the Saint Louis Zoo.


“This award recognizes Devra Kleiman’s legacy of acting as a pioneer in the field of science, and as Dr. Asa’s own research has provided tremendous breakthroughs in conservation science, we knew she would be the perfect choice as the recipient of this prestigious award,” said AZA President and CEO Jim Maddy.


The award specifically recognizes the importance of scientific productivity and mentoring others. The author of more than 160 publications, Dr. Asa serves as adjunct faculty member at four universities and has been the advisor to 25 graduate students and post-doctoral fellows. She has also supervised numerous undergraduate interns.  For many years she ran workshops and short-courses for the AZA and for the MesoAmerican zoo association and still teaches animal behavior and endocrinology courses at Washington University and Saint Louis University.


To receive the Devra Kleiman award, the recipient must also demonstrate the use of scientific research to advance the zoo and aquarium profession. Dr. Asa’s pioneering research in contraception and infertility has been key to genetic management in zoos.  She directed the team that worked with indigenous people in the Bosawas Biosphere Research in Nicaragua, conducting species surveys and analyzing hunting sustainability.   On behalf of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Mexican wolf recovery program, she established the frozen semen bank in 1990, and in 2005, when a cutting-edge technique for preserving female genes became possible, Dr. Asa spearheaded the use of this technique for Mexican wolf conservation.


“Cheri Asa is a widely respected scientist, leader and mentor,” said Jeffrey P. Bonner, Ph.D., Dana Brown President and CEO of the Saint Louis Zoo.  “Her unbridled curiosity about research questions and the value she places on collaboration have led to her great success.  She has continually inspired other generations of young scientists to the same level of accomplishment that she has reached in her distinguished career.”


About AZA

Founded in 1924, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of zoos and aquariums in the areas of conservation, animal welfare, education, science, and recreation. AZA is the accrediting body for the top zoos and aquariums in the United States and seven other countries. Look for the AZA accreditation logo whenever you visit a zoo or aquarium as your assurance that you are supporting a facility dedicated to providing excellent care for animals, a great experience for you, and a better future for all living things. The AZA is a leader in saving species and your link to helping animals all over the world. To learn more, visit


About the Saint Louis Zoo

Named America’s #1 Zoo by Zagat Survey and Parenting Magazine, the Saint Louis Zoo is widely recognized for its innovative approaches to animal management, wildlife conservation, research and education. One of the few free zoos in the nation, it attracts more than 3,000,000 visitors a year. To learn more, visit




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