A lot of hard work goes into caring for animals in managed settings, initiating and implementing conservation projects to protect threatened and endangered species in their native habitats, conducting wildlife research and educating the 175 million visitors who stream through the 224 zoos and aquariums accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). As a result, it is the support of the federal government—and particularly a few individuals—that often makes a difference in the positive outcome of these endeavors.
On June 11, AZA President & CEO Jim Maddy and Executive Director and CEO at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium and Lee G. Simmons Conservation Park & Wildlife Safari Dennis Pate were pleased to present the AZA’s Standing Tall For Zoo and Aquariums Award to Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE). On September 21, AZA Executive Director Kris Vehrs and AZA Vice President of Congressional Affairs Jennifer Keaton also presented the award to Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS). The senators were selected to receive the award for their leadership in passing S. Res. 132. Senator Nelson was the bill’s sponsor, and Senator Moran was one of the lead co-sponsors.
On November 8, 2011, the Senate unanimously passed S. Res. 132, a resolution introduced by Senator Ben Nelson (NE) which recognizes the nation’s accredited zoos and aquariums by commending their employees and volunteers and calls for continued support for accredited zoos and aquariums and their conservation, education and recreation programs. Passage of S. Res. 132 is an important achievement and the culmination of much effort by the AZA membership, their supporters, and Senators Nelson and Moran and their staff.
“Senator Nelson and Moran are extremely deserving of this award,” said Maddy. “Their hard work to garner support for zoos and aquariums not only benefits the facilities themselves but also the communities in which they serve.”
The 224 AZA accredited zoos and aquariums in the United States and overseas collectively generate more than $16 billion in annual economic activity and support more than 142,000 U.S. jobs.
In the last 10 years, AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums formally trained more than 400,000 teachers, supporting science curricula with effective teaching materials and hands-on opportunities. Approximately 12 million students (pre-K through Grade 12) visit AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums each year as part of school field trips.
Senators Nelson and Moran were announced to be the Award recipients during the annual AZA Capitol Hill Reception and Advocacy Day in Washington, DC on May 8 and 9, 2012. More than thirty representatives of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) community participated in more than 100 meetings with legislators and executive branch officials, delivering powerful messages about the economic, education, and conservation programs at AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums. Guests also had the opportunity to interact with animal ambassadors and educators from the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, Philadelphia Zoo, Salisbury Zoo and Maryland Zoo in Baltimore.
Designed to recognize the AZA’s House and Senate champions, the Standing Tall for Zoos and Aquariums Award was first presented in 2011 to Representatives Dan Lipinski (D-IL) and Spencer Bachus (R-AL)—two of the four co-chairs of the House Congressional Zoo and Aquarium Caucus.