One of the best things about visiting an AZA accredited zoo or aquarium is that in addition to seeing hundreds of amazing animals you are also helping to protect them in the wild. Through the support of millions of visitors, AZA zoos and aquariums are spending millions on conservation. In fact, a recent study shows that in 2010, AZA zoos and aquariums spent $130 million to protect animals around the world. In total, we supported 1,906 projects in 112 countries.
Protecting animals in the wild can happen in a variety of ways. Some institutions like the Wildlife Conservation Society (BronxZoo/New York Aquarium/Central Park Zoo/Queens Wildlife Center/Prospect Park Zoo) and San Diego Global (San Diego Zoo/San Diego Safari Park) have extensive programs all over the world. They hire their own scientists and field conservationists and do the work themselves. Other zoos, like the Bramble Park Zoo in Watertown, South Dakota, make donations to other conservation organizations. For Bramble Park, their conservation partner of choice is the Jane Goodall Institute.
Some zoos and aquariums have extensive rescue and rehabilitation programs for sea turtles and manatees. These include the Gladys Porter Zoo and South Carolina Aquarium (sea turtles) and Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo (manatees). Some zoos focus their conservation efforts around one of their signature animals. For the Memphis Zoo and Zoo Atlanta that means hundreds of thousands of dollars for giant panda conservation work in China.
Sometimes nature needs some help getting things started. The Woodland Park Zoo (Seattle) propogates and releases endangered butterflies. Oglebay’s Good Zoo (Wheeling, West Virginia) does the same with hellbender salamanders. For the Phoenix Zoo its black-footed ferrets and the Los Angeles Zoo its California condors.
But none of this work can happen without the support of our visitors. So keep visiting AZA zoos and aquariums because its the easiest and most enjoyable way to protect all of your favorite animals.
Guest Blogger: Steve Burns is Director Zoo Boise and Chair of AZA’s Field Conservation Committee