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EWIRE

Nine California Eagles to Fly FedEx to New Tennessee Mountain Home

Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, Jun. 20 - /EWire/ -- Nine non-releasable adult bald eagles (5 females and 4 males) are set to fly over America - from San Francisco to Knoxville - on the wings of a special FedEx cargo jet on June 18 and 19 - en route to their new Smoky Mountain home at the American Eagle Foundation's United States Eagle Center (http://www.eagles.org/) located at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tenn.

The 23-year old not-for-profit conservation group presently cares for the world's largest collection of non-releasable bald eagles, and is dedicated to the recovery and protection of the national bird.

After a physical check-up by University of Tennessee veterinarians, the birds will be placed into their new aviary residence on June 19 - the day before the nation's first "American Eagle Day" celebration on June 20th.

"We're very excited to receive these majestic birds and pleased that FedEx generously offered to fly them here", said AEF Founder and President Al Cecere. "They're proven breeders, which we hope will produce many youngsters for release into Tennessee's Smoky Mountain foothills."

The American Eagle Foundation (AEF) was chosen by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to receive the eagles from the San Francisco Zoo and care for them indefinitely. The zoo has concluded its successful breeding program after re-introducing more than 100 bald eaglets to the wild, mostly on the Channel Islands off California's coast.

The timely arrival of the eagles in late June coincides with the recent approval of a special Resolution by the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives to set aside June 20th as "American Eagle Day." Governors in 18 states have also proclaimed that special day. The AEF has championed this effort for several years.

The adult eagles follow to Tennessee 6 baby eaglets hatched at the zoo earlier this year - which arrived in May and are presently in the AEF's artificial nesting tower located on Douglas Lake in Dandridge, Tennessee. Two of the San Francisco Zoo eaglets are scheduled for release early in the morning on "American Eagle Day."

As part of the San Francisco Zoo's captive-breeding program, the birds had previously hatched numerous eaglets that were placed in wild nests located on the Channel Islands - a bald eagle recovery project located off the coast of Los Angeles. Today about 70 bald eagles live on the Channel Islands and 7 chicks have successfully hatched there in the last two years.

"The San Francisco Zoo is honored to have been associated with the recovery of the bald eagle in California and thrilled to know that these birds will continue to help the species recovery efforts in the Southeastern United States," said John Aikin, San Francisco Zoo Director of Conservation. "It has been a thrilling and humbling experience for all those involved."

The eagles touch down in Tennessee at a time when the federal government and conservation groups alike are focused on the national bird's dramatic comeback - and are expecting a decision by the end of this month on whether the bald eagle will continue to have Endangered Species Act protection (or not). Cecere is quick to add that the national bird isn't out of the woods just yet. "The bald eagle may soon be removed from the ESA's threatened species list, but it's still not home free. Its fight for future survival will be ongoing, and it will cost millions of dollars to monitor and protect thousands of eagle nests located on private lands nationally for the remainder of this decade and beyond - in order to fully return the bald eagle in flourishing population numbers to America's lands, waterways and skies."

To that end, the AEF hopes to raise $10 million from the general public for its American Eagle Fund (http://www.eagles.org/) by 2009. It could receive another $10 million from a U.S. Mint commemorative eagle coin set that will go on sale in 2008 - to celebrate the eagle's successful recovery to America and the 35th Anniversary of the Endangered Species Act.

The AEF was recently honored with a Conservation Award by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for its comprehensive strategy to help boost bald eagle numbers in the lower 48 states - especially in the Southeast - including eagle reintroduction, captive breeding and extensive environmental/wildlife education efforts. Over 300 captive-hatched and translocated bald eaglets have been released in Tennessee since the early 1980's. The state had no known occupied bald eagle nests in the early 1980's, but there were an estimated 115 occupied nests and 77 successful nests in 2007 that fledged about 135 young.

"We're confident that these precious national treasures will land in the Volunteer State in great condition," said Cecere. "They will be a big plus to our continuing captive-breeding effort to release many more young eaglets in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains."

BOUT THE AEF: Established in 1985, the American Eagle Foundation (AEF) is a not-for-profit charitable organization dedicated to the recovery, protection and preservation of the bald eagle and its habitat. The Federal and State-licensed organization conducts environmental, ecological and eagle-focused education programs, and operates the world's largest bald eagle exhibit and breeding facility. Since 1995, the AEF (http://www.eagles.org/) has appeared coast to coast with its trained, free-flying bald eagle "Challenger", including at the White House, U.S. Capitol Building, Pentagon and various high-profile sporting events such as the World Series, Olympics, Men's Final Four, BSC National Championship and NFL Pro-Bowl.

ABOUT THE SAN FRANCISCO ZOO:

Encompassing 100 acres, the historic San Francisco Zoo (www.sfzoo.org) is Northern California's largest zoological park. In 2007, visitors will journey to the rugged regions of North America to view the Zoo's female grizzly bears in their new expansive habitat - Hearst Grizzly Gulch. The one-acre exhibit features a sunny meadow, pool, mountain stream waterfall and underwater viewing.

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For more information:

Al Cecere, Founder/President, (865) 429-0157, 865-256-0372 cellular or savetheeagle@aol.com. American Eagle Foundation, PO Box 333, Pigeon Forge, TN 37868. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Jennifer Caccavo, Fed Ex Media Relations, (901) 434-7766 office, (901) 371-6684 cellular or jennifer.caccavo@fedex.com ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Paul Garcia, San Francisco Zoo, Public Relations Manager, (415) 753-7174 office, (415) 488-7581 cellular or paulg@sfzoo.org ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Al Donner, Assistant Field Supervisor for External Affairs, Sacramento Office, U.S. Fish & Wldlife Service, (916) 414-6566 office, (916) 712-2004 cellular or al_donner@fws.gov

www.eagles.org

www.sfzoo.org

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