AZA Policy on Non-Native Invasive Species

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AZA Policy on Non-Native Invasive Species

Adopted by the AZA Board of Directors in 2003

The USDA National Invasive Species Information Center defines invasive species as those species which are "(1) non-native (i.e., alien or exotic) to the ecosystem under consideration and (2) whose introduction causes or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health." The introduction of non-native invasive species to both terrestrial and aquatic habitats has had profound and often deleterious impacts on natural ecosystems and native wildlife in North America and worldwide.

Many species, including many of the species managed by AZA's Species Survival Plan® (SSP) Program, have been driven to the brink of extinction by exotic predators or competitors, or by other indirect effects of biological invasions. AZA recognizes the many threats faced by native wildlife and ecosystems as the result of introduced organisms and makes the following resolutions:

AZA members are encouraged to make every effort to ensure that their animal and plant collections and management practices do not become the source of nonnative invasive species introductions. All AZA member institutions should assess the potential risks, both direct and indirect, associated with the public display and cultivation of non-native fauna and flora on native ecosystems. Policies and procedures used to prevent animal escapes should be especially rigorous for non-native taxa that pose a risk of becoming established in local or regional habitats.

Zoo and aquarium horticulturists should also be cognizant of invasive species concerns when working with non-native ornamental or browse plants. When making collection-planning and landscaping decisions, the geographical location of each institution should be considered. The known environmental tolerances and reproductive and seed dispersal strategies of each non-native species should be taken into account when assessing which taxa could potentially become either locally or regionally invasive.

AZA encourages its members to partner with federal, state and local agencies to establish policies that regulate the acquisition, ownership and disposition of non-native, potentially invasive organisms (e.g. certain exotic pets, garden flora, or food species) to protect local and regional native species and habitats.

Some invasive exotic species have become so well established that efforts to control or eliminate them would be difficult, if not impossible. However, in other cases control or elimination is not only feasible, but also necessary to protect native wildlife and habitats. AZA recognizes that some if its members are working to control invasive exotic species as an essential component of their wildlife and habitat conservation or restoration programs. AZA supports member involvement in the control or elimination of invasive species from native ecosystems for conservation purposes. AZA values animal welfare and believes that such control programs should be conducted humanely.

Invasive exotic species are a global problem. Field biologists, researchers, members and donors from zoological parks and aquariums traveling overseas should be mindful of the role they can play in the introduction of non-native invasive species both at home and abroad. AZA encourages its members who travel overseas to follow all relevant government regulations regarding the transportation of biological materials.

Zoological parks and aquariums are important centers for public education, and AZA encourages its members to educate the public and key decision makers about the deleterious impacts associated with species introductions. Educational efforts are best directed at visitors who keep small non-native animals as pets, and those that engage in recreational fishing, boating and scuba diving-activities that have been implicated in the spread of invasive aquatic species from affected waterways.

AZA is an organizational member of IUCN: The World Conservation Union. AZA members are reminded that the IUCN has a policy on invasive species, the IUCN Guidelines for the Prevention of Biodiversity Loss Caused by Alien Invasive Species, which should be consulted when considering alternative approaches to prevention, control, eradication, or mitigation.