AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums are ideal venues for developing emotional ties to wildlife and fostering an appreciation for the natural world. The presentation of ambassador animals can provide the compelling experience needed for visitors to gain and maintain personal connections with their own relationships with nature. With these benefits, however, AZA recognizes that ambassador animal presentations require a host of responsibilities that are required to ensure the welfare, health and safety of the animal, handlers, and public, and stress the importance of ensuring conservation take-home messages are received by the audience.
The AZA Conservation Education Committee (CEC) has developed an Ambassador Animal Position Statement that supports the presentation of ambassador animals in the conservation education programs of AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums and illustrates many of the benefits these presentations have on audience engagement, knowledge acquisition, and enhanced environmental attitudes. Studies have shown that the presentation of ambassador animals is a powerful catalyst for learning for a variety of reasons including:
AZA recognizes the many benefits ambassador animal presentations provide and has established several Accreditation Standards, Board-Approved Policies, and recommendations to guarantee that the welfare, health and safety needs of the animals, handlers, and public are met and ensure conservation messages are received by their audience. These include:
The mission of the Ambassador Animal Scientific Advisory Group (AASAG) is to develop cooperative relationships between the education, research, and animal welfare interests of the zoo and aquarium community around the topic of ambassador animals. Learn more about this group, its goals, and how you can get involved.
PARIS, the Program Animal Rating and Information System, is a tool provided by the Philadelphia Zoo and AZA to share information about species used as program/ambassador animals. There are two parts - a rating system that ranks species on their suitability for use in educational programs, and a wiki that collects and stores information about program/ambassador animal species.The rating system will help you to more efficiently decide which new species you want to add to your collection, and the wiki will give you the information you need to house, handle, and present those species effectively. You can download the rating sheet on the PARIS website and can explore the wiki part of PARIS. If you have information to contribute to the wiki, please email Stephanie Eller to be added as an editor.