Zoos and aquariums can be so much more than just a place where we can see different animal species.
The Association of Zoos and Aquariums, headquartered in my home state of Maryland, governs the accreditation of zoos and aquariums across the world. More than 200 institutions have met the rigorous standards to join the association. The AZA prioritizes animal welfare, conservation and professional excellence.
Conservation lies at the heart of the mission of the AZA. Through their member institutions, the association currently has a variety of active conservation initiatives. Through research, captive breeding, habitat protection and educational outreach, the AZA has been making great efforts to save wild species and their environments. Right now there are programs in the following areas:
Asian Wild Horse Conservation
Climate Change and Wildlife
Marine Mammal Conservation
Polar Bear Research
Along with these larger conservation areas, there is also the SAFE program. This stands for Saving Animals From Extinction. Species on this list are at real risk of extinction and have been selected due to the expertise AZA institutions have about them. New species can be proposed by AZA members.
Every year, the AZA reports on the actions of its institutions in the Annual Report on Conservation and Science. The hard work and dedication of AZA zoo and aquarium professionals is highlighted and shared with the field. It is a yearly reminder of what can be accomplished towards wildlife conservation when working together and being supported by the public and funders.