AZA News Releases

AZA Selects Conservation Projects to Receive Grant Funding

SAFE: Saving Animals From Extinction® is protecting imperiled species.

A cross river gorilla walks through the forest in Nigeria.

Cross River Gorilla. Credit: Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Nigeria

Silver Spring, Md. (February 26, 2020) – The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) is helping to bring more than $400,000 to five conservation projects led by AZA members through the newly establish SAFE: Saving Animals From Extinction® (SAFE) granting program.

With initial funding from the Arthur L. and Elaine V. Johnson Foundation, AZA’s SAFE granting program brings funds to AZA members implementing priority conservation projects. Additional funds were made available through the generous support of the Disney Conservation Fund and other philanthropic and corporate contributors. Each project team has committed matching funds to double the impact of these awards.

“The SAFE granting program brings new funds to AZA members working toward a shared purpose for these animals,” said Dan Ashe, President and CEO of AZA. “The grants help AZA members implement program plans for SAFE species, supporting critical work to benefit species around the world.”

With 24 SAFE species programs eligible to apply and after a competitive review,  judges selected five projects to fund with over $190,000 in grants. Project participants will match these awards with more than $215,000 in additional funds, ultimately driving more than $408,000 to advance SAFE species program priorities and help vulnerable species. Ten AZA members, six additional non-governmental organizations, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will partner to implement these projects.

AZA congratulates this year’s SAFE granting program recipients:

African Vultures United

Corinne Kendall, Ph.D., North Carolina Zoo

Darcy Ogada, Ph.D., The Peregrine Fund

Erin Stotz, Denver Zoological Foundation


Conservation of the Cross River Gorilla in Nigeria

Inaoyom Imong, Ph.D., Wildlife Conservation Society

Rich Bergl, Ph.D., North Carolina Zoo

Erica Farrell, Zoo New England


Decreasing Fishing Pressure on the Vaquita in the Upper Gulf of California

James Danoff-Burg Ph.D., The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens

David Bader, Aquarium of the Pacific


Determining Mechanisms of How Diet Influences Fertility and Health in the Endangered Black-footed Ferret

Rachel Santymire, Ph.D. and Nadya Ali, Lincoln Park Zoo


Reintroduction of Radiated Tortoises in Madagascar

Michael Ogle, Zoo Knoxville

Rick Hudson, Turtle Survival Alliance


The SAFE program is AZA’s collective commitment to conservation and is delivering strategic conservation to recover and protect imperiled species by implementing recovery plans for the world’s most threatened species. The program’s growth, momentum, and scope are described in its 2019 Annual Report, Growing the Impact.

Anyone may support AZA, SAFE, and next year’s conservation projects by visiting to learn more.

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 11 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

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

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