AZA News Releases

Bert Castro, President and CEO of the Arizona Center for Nature Conservation/Phoenix Zoo, Sworn In as New Chair of the Board at Association of Zoos and Aquariums

Silver Spring, MD (September 18, 2020) – The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) is pleased to announce Norberto J. (Bert) Castro, President and CEO of the Arizona Center for Nature Conservation/Phoenix Zoo, as the new Chair of the AZA Board of Directors.

“To say that Bert is going to be facing a challenging year as Chair of the AZA Board of Directors would be a severe understatement,” said Dan Ashe, President and CEO of AZA. “As AZA members deal with the pandemic, pivoting from being closed to recovery, while also leading progress towards greater social justice in their communities,  Bert’s leadership and experience will be instrumental. I look forward to working closely with Bert and the entire AZA Board of Directors to explore the opportunities that these substantial challenges will present to and within our member community.”

As Chair of the Board, Castro, along with three other executive officers and nine board members, will be involved in every aspect of the national organization, including accreditation, ethics, animal welfare, and conservation.

In 2019, AZA’s 240 accredited facilities contributed $231 million to field conservation projects, a collective effort that places them among the world’s largest conservation investors, and is helping to protect species both at home and across the world. They welcomed nearly 200 million visitors, and welcomed more than 12 million students on educational field trips, constituting an audience with unparalleled opportunity for environmental action. AZA-accredited facilities are pillars in their local communities and powerful economic drivers, contributing nearly $23 billion to the U.S. economy and supporting 208,000 jobs.

“At this time of unprecedented turmoil throughout the world, it is more important than ever for the AZA community to be leaders in wildlife conservation, particularly as human health issues continue to arise as a result of habitat loss and human/wildlife interaction,” said Castro. “I am honored and humbled to assume the role of Board Chair and look forward to working with the dedicated and passionate group of zoo and aquarium professionals that make up the AZA.”

President and CEO of the Arizona Center for Nature Conservation/Phoenix Zoo since 2008, Castro began his professional career in 1985 as a volunteer and then, later that year, as a Keeper at the Tulsa Zoo. He then served as Assistant Curator at the Audubon Zoo, Curator of Birds and Mammals at Zoo Atlanta, Living Collections Manager/General Curator at the San Antonio Zoological Gardens and Aquarium and Executive Director/CEO of the Oklahoma City Zoological Park and Botanical Garden.

Castro oversees all facets of the Zoo’s daily operations at the 126-acre facility. In addition to leading local conservation efforts, Castro is known globally for contributing staff and resources for the advancement of international conservation work.

Castro has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Zoology and a Master of Science Degree in Environmental Studies.

Castro has been a member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) since 1985 and has served on the Diversity Committee, Ethics Committee, and was Chairman of both the Government Affairs and the Wildlife Conservation and Management Committee, which is now known as the Animal Population Management Committee. He is currently serving a second term on the AZA Board of Directors, having previously served on the Board during 2009 – 2011. Castro has also served as an AZA Executive Leadership Development Program mentor.

He has been a member of the Zoo Conservation Outreach Board, serving as Chairman in 2006 and 2007. He served on the Board of the Foothills Community Foundation from 2012 – 2017, serving as Chairman from 2015 – 2017.  He was appointed by President Obama to serve on the Institute of Museum and Library Services Advisory Board and served from 2012 - 2017.

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

  About the Arizona Center for Nature Conservation/Phoenix Zoo

The Arizona Center for Nature Conservation operates the Phoenix Zoo. The ACNC advances the stewardship and conservation of animals and their habitats while providing experiences that inspire people and motivate them to care for the natural world.

The Phoenix Zoo is the only zoo in the Phoenix area accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and is a non-profit zoological park, serving 1.4 million guests annually. The Zoo is home to more than 3,000 animals, many of which are endangered and threatened species. For information on upcoming events, exhibits and activities at the Phoenix Zoo, visit


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