Founder – Walter Crawford
“I am fortunate to be able to do what I love in life and I am always pleased to share my interests and passion for wildlife and this planet with anyone who is willing to listen.”
Walter C. Crawford, Jr. served as Executive Director of World Bird Sanctuary until his death in July 2015.
Walter spent his boyhood years in Venezuela, where his father worked as a field engineer for a petroleum company. The exotic birds in the jungles of South America caught the attention of the young boy and his interest in them eventually led Crawford to his life’s work – the propagation, rescue, rehabilitation, and preservation of birds, especially birds of prey. Crawford, a Vietnam veteran, received a bachelor’s degree from Southeast Missouri State University and a master’s degree from Mississippi State University. With the blessing and support of the Zoo’s Director Emeritus, Marlin Perkins, in 1977 Crawford founded what eventually came to be known as the World Bird Sanctuary. In 1982 he left the zoo to work full-time at the sanctuary. The work being done by Crawford and the rest of the World Bird Sanctuary staff has been enhanced by the opening of the World Bird Sanctuary’s 105 acre nature park in 2000. Under Crawford’s direction the World Bird Sanctuary is headquarters for an exciting combination of rescue, rehabilitation, research and education.
- 1st captive breeding of the Bateleur Eagle
- 1st captive breeding of the Mottled Owl
- 1982 Conservationist of the Year
- 1984 Conservation Organization of the Year
- Distinguished Alumni Awards – Southeast MO State – School of Polytechnic Studies and Agriculture Department
- 1993 Lifetime Achievement Award – Wildlife Rehabilitation Association
- 1994 Gorilla, Gorilla, Gorilla Award – Zoological Society of Milwaukee County
- 1997 International Achievement Award – International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council
- 1999 Conservation Award & Community Service Award – National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution
- Certificate of Award for Conservation & Conservation Award of Exceptional Merit – Missouri State Society
- Award of Appreciation – US Army Corps of Engineers
- 1991 appointed Curator of Ornithology & Avian Research – Guyana Zoo in Georgetown
- Member of the Explorers Club
- Founder & Vice-President of the National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association
- Past President – International Association of Avian Trainers and Educators
Originally named the Raptor Rehabilitation & Propagation Project (RRPP), the World Bird Sanctuary’s roots are deep. The land that housed the RRPP formerly belonged to the U.S. Army, who used the area as a munitions depot during WWII. Many of RRPP’s first bird buildings were old Army facilities. “A” Barn, as this building was called, was used to house RRPP’s breeding department. The U.S. Army’s Administration Offices were initially housed in this facility. “D” Barn had a special purpose for RRPP. It provided housing for injured eagles brought to RRPP that, due to the nature of their injuries, were unable to be released back into the wild. While the U.S. Army was in residence they used the facility as their shower/latrine facility for the nearby barracks.