93 AZA member facilities help create six new programs in the past year.
Silver Spring, Maryland – As the global COVID-19 pandemic continues, nearly three in four people in the United States are concerned about the increasing number of endangered species. In response to a recent survey conducted by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), 72 percent[i] answered they were very or somewhat concerned about the increasing number of endangered species, an increase of eight percent[ii] from 2016.
The protection of endangered species is at the core of the AZA’s mission. AZA SAFE: Saving Animals From Extinction® was established in 2015 to harness the collective expertise, resources, and reach of AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums to save species and promote wildlife protection. Now celebrating its fifth year, SAFE has expanded to 27 species or taxa threatened with extinction. Over half of AZA’s 240 accredited zoos and aquariums are involved, helping to make a difference for an array of species protected under the US Endangered Species Act.
“I am proud of the accomplishments we have achieved in our first five years,” said Dan Ashe, CEO and President of AZA. “In 2018, AZA members spent $233 million on field conservation, and we expect the amount for 2019 to be comparable. It is likely that the COVID-19 pandemic will negatively impact global species conservation spending in 2020, but AZA and its members remain more committed than ever to help save species.”
The newest SAFE species programs include American turtles, Andean bear, Andean highland flamingos, Asian hornbills, North American monarch, and North American songbirds. These six programs are being led and supported by more than ninety AZA members and more than fifty field partners.
“For AZA-accredited facilities, conservation and saving species are central to our culture,” said Dr. Christopher Kuhar, Executive Director of the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo and Chair of the AZA Board of Directors. “We created SAFE as a way for AZA members not only to coordinate existing conservation efforts but also to give members a way to become more involved in conservation. I am proud AZA members are stepping up, proposing new SAFE species programs, and demonstrating that modern zoological facilities are mission-driven conservation organizations.”
As the number of SAFE species programs continues to grow, shared threats have emerged among the species and taxa. The five major threats include habitat loss and fragmentation, unsustainable use (including unsustainable fishing and wildlife trafficking), the spread and outbreaks of non-native and problematic species and pathogens, pollution, and climate change.
AZA and its members have long sought to reduce the impacts of these five threats and continue to do so through SAFE. This spring, they are raising awareness among the public through a coordinated social media campaign that highlights the SAFE species programs, the shared threats, and what we all can do so that people and wildlife can thrive together.
AZA’s 2020 Party for the Planet: Spring into Action campaign is part of the efforts to reduce these threats by focusing on actions the public can take to support healthy habitats, including for SAFE species like monarchs and North American songbirds. While the over 100 family-friendly volunteer events AZA members had planned for this spring are postponed, AZA and its members continue to share ways people can spring into action at home. Some of these actions include planting a pollinator garden or choosing bird-friendly coffee when shopping.
To learn more about SAFE species and the projects AZA members are working on, visit https://www.aza.org/safe.
Founded in 1924, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of zoos and aquariums in the areas of conservation, animal welfare, education, science, and recreation. AZA is the accrediting body for the top zoos and aquariums in the United States and 12 other countries. Look for the AZA accreditation logo whenever you visit a zoo or aquarium as your assurance that you are supporting a facility dedicated to providing excellent care for animals, a great experience for you, and a better future for all living things. The AZA is a leader in saving species and your link to helping animals all over the world. To learn more, visit www.aza.org.
About SAFE: Saving Animals From Extinction
SAFE: Saving Animals From Extinction combines the power of zoo and aquarium visitors with the resources and collective expertise of AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums and partners to save animals from extinction. Together we are working on saving the most vulnerable wildlife species from extinction and protecting them for future generations. To learn more, visit www.aza.org/aza-safe.
[i] AZA Public Opinion Poll; Nationwide online survey fielded March 27-April 2, 2020; Census-representative sample; n=1,306 completes
[ii] AZA Public Opinion Poll; Nationwide online survey fielded February 29 – March 3, 2016; Census-representative sample; n=1,231 completes
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