AZA, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, despite challenges posed by COVID-19, is steadfastly committed to animal care and conservation. The non-profit invested over $230 million into field conservation in 2019; endangered species protection is central to AZA’s mission.
Working together to SAVE
AZA established the Saving Animals From Extinction program in 2015, which now comprises conservation efforts for 29 threatened species. These species are increasingly vulnerable to challenges such as habitat loss, poaching, pollution, and pathogens.
“To say 2020 was unlike any other year is quite an understatement,” says Dan Ashe, CEO and President of AZA.” “Nearly everything in our lives has changed. One thing that has not changed is our shared commitment to conservation and saving species around the world.”
Currently, more than 70 percent of AZA’s members are working together to make a difference for protected species. “SAFE: Saving Animals From Extinction represents our shared commitment to conservation, and I believe the program is more critical than ever,” says Ashe. “SAFE is our means to successful collaborative conservation among our community.”
Springing into action
Because of that continued commitment, since 2020, 4 new SAFE species programs led by twenty-three AZA member organizations ramped up. The new species programs are American turtle, Asian hornbill, the tree kangaroos of Papua New Guinea, and African painted dog.
AZA members have initiated a social media campaign, 2021 Party for the Planet: Spring into Action. The campaign supports healthy habits for people and the environment, focusing on three action areas: Clean, Create and Connect.
Bert Castro is the President and CEO of the Arizona Center for Nature Conservation and Phoenix Zoo, and Chair of the AZA Board of Directors. He says: “AZA-accredited facilities are mission-driven organizations committed to saving species and motivating the public to act with purpose.
“As our signature conservation program, SAFE is one way we can act collectively, both locally and internationally. By taking targeted actions together, we can make a difference.”
Now in its second year of issuing grants, AZA SAFE is helping to direct funding for 4 new member-led conservation projects.