The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) has released its 2017 report, showing the contributions of its members to global conservation and science.
Zoos and aquariums accredited by AZA funded a record-breaking $220 million in field conservation, led 2,800 education programs, and contributed to 170 peer-reviewed publications.
AZA members supported programs across 128 countries. The initiatives benefited 863 species and subspecies – of which over 280 were listed as endangered or threatened under the US Endangered Species Act.
AZA’s President and CEO, Dan Ashe, said: “AZA and its member facilities are committed to a mission of conserving wildlife and wild places. The AZA community is consistently increasing its efforts to save species from extinction through AZA SAFE and other local and international projects. I am proud to announce AZA facilities are well on the way to meeting and exceeding our ambitious goal to invest $1 billion in conservation within the next five years.”
Michael Mace, Director of Animal Collections and Strategy at San Diego Zoo Global, was the co-recipient of AZA’s 2017 North American Conservation Award. He said: “Members of AZA are serving critical roles to save species all around the world. The knowledge AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums have developed to manage the animals in our care is now being directly applied to species in the wild. The conservation area is constantly changing while AZA and our partners continue to develop expertise to save species.”
A total of more than 2800 educational programmes were reported across 148 facilities. More than 3700 FTE educators were involved in the session, supported by over 28,500 volunteers. Together, they contributed an astounding 2.6 million hours.
Hot topics in education programmes included connecting to nature, habitat loss and sustainable living.
Educational programmes hope to engage visitors with a conservation message. Messages about making informed purchasing choices reached over 21 million visitors in 2017. Centres also reached out to the local community, with three quarters offering off-site educational programmes.
Sustainable Business Practice
AZA members continued to utilise sustainable business practices. 61 facilities purchased renewable energy or generated it on site. 57% of facilities sourced local food or grew it on site. Recycling and composting were the most frequently reported sustainable practices.
51 facilities reported recycling more than 88,000 tons of waste.
Emily Katzin, Sustainability Manager at Philadelphia Zoo, said: “At Philadelphia Zoo, we strive to lead by example. Communicating the collective impact of our sustainability efforts and empowering visitors to join us in taking action on-site can plant the seed for visitors of all ages to become wildlife heroes in their homes, schools, workplaces and communities. We want our staff and visitors to know that each step they take for conservation matters, because taken together, these steps add up to make a big difference for wildlife.”
$25 million was spent on research in 2017 by AZA institutions. 1,280 projects were reported, producing 170 peer reviewed documents.
Over half of all research focused on mammals, 15% on birds and 8% on reptiles. Animal care, health and welfare were the AZA community’s most common focus of research.
The majority of research took place in the United States – with research also happening in Canada, Peru and Madagascar.
Kathy Carlstead, PhD Research Associate at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, said: “As we move forward, study of the reciprocal benefits of good keeper-animal relationships promises to lead to better understanding of the cognitive and emotional requirements of zoo animals.”
Images courtesy of Association of Zoos and Aquariums