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Zuni Eagle Sanctuary

The Zuni Eagle Sanctuary in west-central New Mexico is the country's first rescue aviary to be owned an operated by Native Americans. According to the Zuni Fish and Wildlife Department, the sanctuary was born out of a desire to preserve the tribe's cultural traditions. As with many other Native American peoples, the Zunis have several religious ceremonies that require the use of eagle feathers.

For centuries, the Zunis practiced eagle husbandry, but when federal laws enacted in the 1940s and 1970s outlawed such activity, the Zunis abandoned the practice. For decades the only way for Native Americans to legally obtain eagle feathers was through the National Eagle Repository in Denver, but the large demand for feathers resulted in backlogs and delays that sometimes took years to clear. In 1995 the Zunis reached out to the US Fish and Wildlife Service to find a solution to the problem and learned that many basically healthy eagles that had been injured were being euthanized because their injuries prohibited their return to the wild. An eagle sanctuary addressed two needs: it would be a source of molted feathers, and it would provide care for injured but otherwise healthy eagles. The aviary's design and quality of care has earned it numerous awards.

The success of this program has inspired other Native American communities to use it as a model for similar aviaries.