world association of zoos and aquariums

Zoos Prevent Extinction

(And do other good work.)

This is an excerpt from an email from the American Zoo and Aquarium Association to its members. The AZA isn’t the only zoo accrediting body in North America, but it is the largest and arguably the most rigorous, requiring its members to participate in research, conservation, education, and sustainability efforts. Here’s a list of some of the 2016 accomplishments of the members:

Field Conservation:·         

AZA-accredited and certified related facilities spent approximately $216 million dollars last year on field conservation projects, breaking the $200 million dollar mark for the first time (217 facilities reporting).·         

Projects benefitted species in more than 127 countries, and projects most frequently occurred in the United States, Kenya, Indonesia, China, and Canada.·         

823 species and subspecies benefitted from conservation action, including 231 species listed as endangered or threated under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.  

Education Programming:·        

 AZA-accredited facilities engaged in more than 90 million audience-driven education opportunities, including visitor-initiated interactions like nature play spaces, interpreters at exhibits, discovery carts, and more (146 facilities reported). ·         

Over 21,500 education volunteers contributed 2 million hours of service at AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums.  

Green Practices:·         

52 facilities generated renewable energy on-site or purchased it for their business operations (128 facilities reported).   ·         

Twenty facilities reported having certified wildlife habitat on-site, 16 facilities reported buildings that are LEED-certified by the U.S. Green Building Council, and 10 were certified as “Dine Green” through the Green Restaurant Association.   


Approximately $26.8 million was spent on 1,249 research projects conducted in 55 countries around the world (180 facilities reporting). ·         

AZA members published 237 peer-reviewed papers, technical reports, book chapters, or graduate thesis.·         

Research most often focused on animal care, health, and welfare; and species and habitat conservation. (122 facilities reporting) With each year, more information is collected that demonstrates how the AZA community of accredited zoos and aquariums and certified related facilities provide unique venues for informal learning, set examples in sustainable business practices, make important contributions to science, and work toward securing the future for wildlife. 

iblamethestars-deactivated20170  asked:

you support zoo's? Why?

I support accredited zoos, not roadside menageries and private collections. I have written extensively on this topic before, but here’s the gist of it, copied and pasted: 

I take a lot of photos of wild animals living in zoos. People often look at my work and ask, “If you’re for animal welfare, why do you support these zoos?” 

My answer is this:

Zoos can be both a blessing and a curse. Many zoos in the world today make their money by exploiting their animals for human entertainment. But others exist for the purpose of perpetuating conservation and education, and, in many ways, could be the ONLY way to save certain species from extinction. 

What LOT of people don’t understand is that in the United States, zoos can become accredited by an organization known as the AZA, the American Association of Zoos and Aquariums. They operate to establish a new standard for zoos, focusing on breeding programs and advances in animal care tactics. All zoos accredited by the AZA must meet a series a grueling standards, including proper enclosure size, exceptional animal care and husbandry, and a focus on conservation. 

These AZA zoos have established a program called the Species Survival Plan, which focuses on increasing the genetic diversity of captive zoo animals. An increased genetic diversity is VITAL to keeping a species alive, specially if the species comes from just a small population of breeding founders. 

AZA animals are NOT taken from the wild; they are the descendants of breeding stock which was captured more than 80 years ago. The only exception to this rule is for animals which are in need of rescue, and which cannot be released back into the wild. 

The Oregon Zoo, for example, houses several birds of prey which are the victims of car collisions and attempted poaching, all of which are not fit to survive in the wild. They also have a mountain lion which was rescued as an orphan (who is now the proud mother of the very first cougar cub born at an AZA zoo in 15 years). 

Through the efforts of the Species Survival Plan, many rare and endangered animals are now facing a brighter future. Using captive specimens, biologists increase wild populations. The recent boom in of California condor numbers can be almost entirely credited to the efforts of AZA zoos who work in conjunction with the US Fish and Wildlife Service to release captive-raised birds into their native habitats. 

Likewise, it gives scientists an opportunity to learn from animals without having to disturb them in the wild. A prime example would be the case of a biologist studying elephants at the Oregon Zoo, trying to figure out how the giants communicated over vast distances. One day, while taking notes, she noticed that she could feel a very slight tremor travel through the concrete floor. This lead to the discovery of something remarkable: Elephants could communicate by emitting low-frequency rumbles which traveled for miles through the ground without making any sound at all. This is how many elephants communicate in the wild in what seems to be an otherwise silent manner.

If you enjoy zoos, but are not sure which ones to support and which to stay away from, do what I do: ONLY support AZA-accredited zoos and registered non-profit rescues centers. Avoid non-accredited zoos, and any rescue center which is not a registered non-profit. All AZA zoos will state their affiliation with the AZA and the Species Survival Plan on their websites, so you can look them up before you even leave your house.

Hope this helps!