AZA, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and its accredited members are working to save endangered species, with six new programmes being added in the last year.
AZA puts the protection of endangered species at the heart of its mission and established AZA SAFE: Saving Animals From Extinction in 2015. Now it is pleased to announce that, as the programme enters its fifth year, SAFE has expanded to 27 species threatened with extinction and more than half of its accredited zoos and aquariums are involved in the scheme.
A recent AZA study found that almost three in four people in the US are concerned about the increasing number of species that are threatened with extinction.
“I am proud of the accomplishments we have achieved in our first five years,” says Dan Ashe, CEO and President of AZA. “In 2018, AZA members spent $233 million on field conservation, and we expect the amount for 2019 to be comparable. It is likely that the COVID-19 pandemic will negatively impact global species conservation spending in 2020, but AZA and its members remain more committed than ever to help save species.”
Six new programmes by AZA members include projects to support American turtles, Andean bears, Andean highland flamingos, Asian hornbills, North American monarchs, and North American songbirds. Over 90 AZA members support these, alongside over 50 field partners.
“For AZA-accredited facilities, conservation and saving species are central to our culture,” says Dr Christopher Kuhar, Executive Director of the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo and Chair of the AZA Board of Directors.
“We created SAFE as a way for AZA members not only to coordinate existing conservation efforts but also to give members a way to become more involved in conservation. I am proud AZA members are stepping up, proposing new SAFE species programs, and demonstrating that modern zoological facilities are mission-driven conservation organizations.”
Supporting endangered species
There are currently several major threats to animals; habitat loss and fragmentation, unsustainable use (including unsustainable fishing and wildlife trafficking), the spread and outbreaks of non-native and problematic species and pathogens, pollution, and climate change.
The association and its member facilities are working to reduce the impact of these threats through the SAFE scheme. Actions include raising public awareness with media campaigns and educating visitors on how people can change their habits to help wildlife thrive.
AZA’s 2020 Party for the Planet: Spring into Action campaign is one such example. This focuses on actions the public can take to support healthy habitats, including for SAFE species like monarchs and North American songbirds.
Despite events being postponed due to COVID-19, AZA’s members are still working hard to share information about the campaign, showing how visitors can help from home. For example, by planting a pollinator garden or choosing bird-friendly coffee when shopping. More information on the SAFE species and projects can be found here.
Last month, AZA granted accreditation to 23 facilities and announced a one-year extension for all members due to COVID-19.