AZA, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, has announced an update to the Heroes Act to include funding for endangered species and is also celebrating the winners of its 2020 Honors and Awards.
AZA is pleased to announce that the U.S. House of Representatives has included $30 million assistance for aquariums and zoos to continue caring for endangered animals in the wake of the pandemic, as part of the updated Heroes Act.
“Modern, accredited zoos and aquariums exist to help save animals from extinction. Under normal circumstances, AZA members happily use guest revenue to produce, raise, and rescue endangered species for reintroduction or release, and provide lifetime care for those that cannot be returned to the wild, but these are not normal circumstances,” says Dan Ashe, President and CEO of AZA.
Funding to support vital work
“Our members are facing drastically reduced revenue due to necessary visitation limitations, but the costs of providing veterinary care, housing, and food do not go away. The animals cannot be furloughed, and neither can the everyday care delivered by zoological professionals.
“I am very pleased leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives have included funding to support zoos and aquariums as they continue to care for endangered species.”
This comes after AZA urged Congress to provide $30 million for urgent relief funding to AZA members earlier this year. AZA members provide vital support to federal agencies by caring for rescued, confiscated, or threatened and endangered species. This includes red wolves, Mexican wolves, manatees, California condors, southern sea otters, Florida Reef Tract rescued corals and more.
While AZA members usually raise funds to support this work through visitor admission chargers, the temporary closure of many facilities has resulted in a loss of revenue.
“Prior to joining the AZA, I had a 22-year career with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, including nearly six years as Director,” says Ashe. “I have a keen appreciation of how much the government relies on accredited zoos and aquariums. We estimate it will cost AZA members at least $5 million per month for the next six months to maintain operations and care for these species.
“I am hopeful Congress will act swiftly and reach a compromise that includes at least $30 million in relief funding to support our continuing care for endangered species.”
2020 Honors and Awards recipients
AZA has also recognised outstanding achievement of more than 2020 member organisations in the areas of conservation, education, research, exhibit design, marketing, diversity, research, and volunteer engagement. The winners of its 2020 Awards and Honors were named at its Virtual Annual Conference in September.
“In these unprecedented times, I am glad we could convene and honor the outstanding achievements of the distinguished leaders in our profession,” says Ashe. “Their contributions and mentorship have inspired all within the accredited zoo and aquarium community to advance AZA’s mission of creating a world where all people respect, value, and conserve wildlife and wild places.”
For the first time, AZA has also given its new award, the Research Award, which highlights notable work by AZA members to advance the body of scientific knowledge in relation to animal welfare, understanding biological principles, advancing field conservation efforts, and maximizing our impact on visitors.
“Zoos and aquariums are more important than ever in keeping people connected with nature,” says Sue Chin, Vice President of Planning & Design and Chief Architect, Exhibits, Graphics, and Design at the Wildlife Conservation Society, and Chair, AZA Honors and Awards Committee. “All of the award-winning projects exemplify excellence across the whole profession and are critical to advancing the field and our collective mission.”
The full list of 2020 Awards and Honors recipients can be found here.
Last month, AZA appointed Bert Castro, President & CEO of the Arizona Center for Nature Conservation/Phoenix Zoo, as new Chair of the Board.