AZA News Releases

AZA Statement on the Documentary “The Conservation Game”

Silver Spring, Maryland (August 12, 2021) – A new documentary called “The Conservation Game” focuses critical attention on the practices of television entertainers who use big cat cubs, including Jack Hanna, Dave Salmoni, and Jarod Miller. Now-retired Jack Hanna’s relationship to Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), is prominently featured. In response to the film’s release, Dan Ashe, President and CEO of AZA, released the following statement:

“The Association of Zoos and Aquariums unequivocally condemns the treatment of animals that is portrayed in “The Conservation Game.” The practices shown in the documentary do not reflect the letter or spirit of AZA standards, which is precisely why AZA has been a strong supporter of and advocate for the passage of the Big Cat Public Safety Act since 2017. Private individuals should not be permitted to own or breed big cats. Period.

“Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is a long-time accredited AZA member. Columbus Zoo is an outstanding facility and a valuable part of our community. Still, the practices portrayed in the documentary attributed to some Columbus Zoo staff, if accurate, are not what we expect from a modern accredited zoo. These practices were brought to the attention of AZA’s independent Accreditation Commission prior to the film’s release and are currently under review.

“Jack Hanna has done immeasurable good for the wild world by helping kindle a sense of wonder for nature in untold millions of kids and adults alike. With the recent news of Jack's illness, our hearts are heavy, and our thoughts and well-wishes are with Jack and his family. In the coming weeks and months, we will have the opportunity to help address and resolve the issues raised in this film.

“The use of animal ambassadors can be an inspiring educational practice that helps people learn about, develop empathy for, and appreciate wildlife. Separate from the Accreditation Commission’s review, AZA plans to investigate both the specific allegations and the broader practices captured in the film. Part of maintaining a gold-standard accreditation program is a willingness to examine and improve our standards. We are constantly evolving and can be better.

“Columbus’ AZA accreditation is due to be reviewed this year. During this process, the AZA Accreditation Commission will closely evaluate all facets of their operations and practices during an onsite inspection and accreditation hearing.”

Dan Ashe has viewed “The Conservation Game” on several occasions, through a web link supplied by the film’s director and producer.

 

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 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.


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