AZA News Releases

AZA Selects 13 Projects to Receive Conservation Grant Funding With Support From The Disney Conservation Fund

Support for global conservation projects continues.

Silver Spring, Maryland (October 27, 2021) – The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) has awarded Conservation Grants Fund (CGF) grants totaling nearly $290,000 to 13 research and conservation projects led by AZA members.

Established in 1984, the AZA Conservation Grants Fund is a competitive grants program that supports the cooperative conservation-related scientific and educational initiatives of AZA members and their partners. Major areas of funding for conservation and animal care are represented, including research, field conservation, education and outreach, animal welfare, animal health and animal management. Many Conservation Grants Fund projects are collaborations among AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums and governmental wildlife agencies, academia and other conservation organizations.

“AZA-accredited facilities and individual members continue to show their commitment to conservation, despite all of the challenges they have faced this past year and a half,” said Dan Ashe, President and CEO of AZA. “I am thankful for the wonderful support from the Disney Conservation Fund that allows us to fund so many projects each year. Congratulations to all of the recipients!”

Between 1991 and 2020, the CGF provided more than $8.2 million to 446 projects worldwide. The majority of funding for this year’s CGF and SAFE granting programs was provided by the Disney Conservation Fund, with additional funds provided for SAFE species by private donations, as well as marketing and licensing agreements.

After a competitive review of 55 proposals, 13 projects were chosen to be funded for 2021. This year’s awards span the globe, will benefit an array of taxonomic groups, and will be implemented by staff at AZA member facilities of all sizes, as well as by individual AZA members working at non-profit organizations, government agencies, and universities. Five of the proposals benefit species supported by AZA SAFE: Saving Animals From Extinction®.

Making funding recommendations this year was difficult. Many excellent submissions were reviewed. In spite of the COVID-19 pandemic and all of the resulting challenges, AZA members are committed to helping people and wildlife thrive together and these projects exemplify this commitment.

AZA congratulates the 2021 Conservation Grants Fund recipients:

Characterization of Adult Zebra Shark Reproductive Cycles and Baseline Rates of Parthenogenesis
Kady Lyons, PhD, Georgia Aquarium
Lance Adams, DVM, Aquarium of the Pacific
Mike Murray, The Loveland Living Planet Aquarium

Developing a Non-invasive (Fecal DNA) Genotyping Tool from Genomes for the Critically Endangered Eastern Bongo (Tragelaphus eurycerus isaaci)
Budhan Pukazhenthi, PhD, Smithsonian National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute
Klaus-Peter Koepfli, PhD, Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation - George Mason University
Haw Chuan Lim, PhD, George Mason University
John Andrews, Lincoln Park Zoo
Karen Holm, DVM, George Mason University

Documenting Breeding Success and Genetic Diversity of a Reintroduced Population of Dusky Gopher Frogs (Lithobates sevosus)
Allison Bogisich and Sinlan Poo, PhD, The Memphis Zoo
Timothy Brooks, The US Army Corps of Engineers

Engaging Public Aquaria to Build an Open-Source Marine Fish Egg Catalog
Barbara Bailey, New England Aquarium
Andrew Rhyne, PhD, Roger Williams University
Kylie Lev, Steinhart Aquarium, California Academy of Sciences

Enhancing SMART Capacity to Improve Management Effectiveness and Conservation Outcomes in Zambia's National Protected Area Network
Drew Cronin, PhD, North Carolina Zoo

Expanding the Regional Impact of the Coexistence Co-op
Darcy Ogada, PhD, The Peregrine Fund
Alayne Cotterill, PhD, Lion Landscapes

Ex Situ Management and Population Monitoring for the Endangered Dakota Skipper in Canada
Stephen Petersen, PhD and Laura Burns, Assiniboine Park Conservancy

Further Development of a Noninvasive Fecal Profile to Monitor and Assess Health in Endangered African Penguins
Maureen Driscoll, PhD, Tracy Romano, PhD, and Allison Tuttle, DVM, Diplomate ACZM, Sea Research Foundation Inc d/b/a Mystic Aquarium

Satellite Telemetry and Remote Sensing for Land Use Planning and Grevy’s Zebra Conservation in Northern Kenya
Sheila Funnell and Belinda Low, Grevy's Zebra Trust
Martha Fischer, Saint Louis Zoo

Seasonal Reproductive Health Assessments of In Situ Sand Tiger Sharks (Carcharias taurus) to Develop a Seasonally Appropriate Health Database for Ex Situ Populations
Michael Hyatt, DVM, New York Aquarium
Emily Christiansen, DVM, MPH, Diplomate ACZM, North Carolina Aquariums
Linda Penfold, PhD, South-East Zoo Alliance for Reproduction & Conservation

Understanding the Roles of Behavior and Physiology on the Survival of Reintroduced Swift Foxes
Nucharin Songsasen, PhD, Hila Sharmon, PhD, and Melissa Songer, PhD, Smithsonian's National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute

Using Satellite Telemetry to Assess Movement and Behavioral Patterns of Cold Stunned Sea Turtles that Strand in New England and are Released off Florida’s East Coast
Debborah Luke, PhD, and Ashley Riese, The Florida Aquarium

Vaccination of Last Remaining Population of Riparian Brush Rabbits (Sylvilagus bachmani riparius) against Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus (RHDV) in Central California
Darren Minier and Alex Herman, DVM, Oakland Zoo

Anyone may support next year’s conservation projects by donating online at Next year’s application materials will be available on the Conservation Grants Fund webpage in January 2022.

About AZA

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 eleven 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



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