Founder of World Bird Sanctuary to Speak Sept. 27 at Southeast


Photo of walter Crawford

Walter Crawford, Jr., executive director and founder of the World Bird Sanctuary, will speak on raptor conservation Sept. 27 at Southeast Missouri State University.


Sept. 11, 2006 – Walter Crawford, Jr., executive director and founder of the World Bird Sanctuary and a dedicated ornithologist, will speak on raptor conservation Sept. 27 at Southeast Missouri State University.

The event is scheduled for 7 p.m. in the University Center Ballroom and is free and open to the public. Crawford will have several birds with him, some of which will fly over the audience, as a part of his presentation.

The presentation is sponsored by the Department of Biology, the Biology Club and the Trail of Tears Group, Ozark Chapter of the Sierra Club.

Crawford received a bachelor’s degree in agriculture from Southeast Missouri State University in 1971 and a master’s degree from Mississippi State University. He received Southeast’s Alumni Merit Award from the School of Polytechnic Studies in 2001. He also has received a Distinguished Alumni Award from Southeast’s Department of Agriculture. Both awards recognized his environmental and conservation efforts.

Crawford grew up in Venezuela, where his father worked as a field engineer for a petroleum company. The exotic birds in the jungles of South America caught his attention and led him to his life’s work – the propagation, rescue, rehabilitation and preservation of birds, especially birds of prey.

After joining the staff of the St. Louis Zoological Park, he was recognized by the American Association of Zoological Parks and Aquariums for the first captive breeding of the Bateleur Eagle. He was also cited for the first captive breeding of the Mottled Owl.

Crawford founded what eventually became known as the World Bird Sanctuary in 1977, and, in 1982, he left the zoo to work full time at the sanctuary. Today, the sanctuary, which formerly was known as the Raptor Rehabilitation and Propagation Project, is one of North America’s largest conservation facilities for birds.

Last year, Crawford published a book, They Call Me The Birdman.

Crawford’s contributions to conservation are recognized internationally. In 1991, the government of Guyana appointed him curator of ornithology and avian research for the Guyana Zoo in Georgetown. As curator, Crawford is helping the South American country restore its threatened native bird populations.

Crawford’s leadership in ornithology has been recognized many times. In 1982, the Conservation Federation of Missouri named him Conservationist of the Year for his work with endangered raptors in the Midwestern United States. In 1984, the sanctuary received the Conservation Organization of the Year award for preserving birds of prey throughout Missouri.

He has been awarded the “Lifetime Achievement” award from the National Wildlife Rehabilitation Association for his life’s work in protecting the world’s bird species and the “Gorilla, Gorilla, Gorilla” Award for his work in education and preservation of biodiversity from the Zoological Society of Milwaukee County. He has received the International Achievement Award from the International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council for his work in wildlife conservation and habitat preservation.

In 1999, the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution presented Crawford with the Conservation Award for his dedication to the preservation of the national resources of the country, its soils, minerals, forests, waters and wildlife. The Society also presented him with the Excellence in Community Service Award for his efforts to educate the children of St. Louis, Missouri and the nation, as well as the Certificate of Award for Conservation from the Missouri State Society and the Conservation Award of Exceptional Merit from the O’Fallon Chapter of the Society. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers also has recognized Crawford’s efforts by presenting him with the Award of Appreciation for his commitment to the nation’s public lands and natural resources.

Crawford’s peers in ornithology have elected him as a member of the Explorers Club, a multidisciplinary society dedicated to scientific exploration and field research. He was a founding member of the National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association and served as vice president for eight years. In 2003, the International Association of Avian Trainers and Educators presented him with its Significant Achievement Award for his dedication to wildlife conservation and in recognition of his outstanding service as president.

The work being done by Crawford and the World Bird Sanctuary staff has been enhanced through the creation of the World Environmental Education Center. The Center is headquarters for a combination of rescue, rehabilitation, field studies and education.