AZA News Releases

Celebrating 40 Years of the Endangered Species Act: AZA-Accredited Zoos and Aquariums Support Conservation

In honor of the 40th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) today announced that AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums support the field conservation of more than 650 species-approximately 200 of which are currently listed under the ESA.

Each year, the 223 zoos and aquariums accredited by the AZA collectively contribute $160 million a year to field conservation,supporting more than 2,650 conservation projects in 115 countries.

"The implementation of Endangered Species Act in 1973 was an important step in unifying efforts to protect the world's threatened and endangered animals and plants," said AZA President& CEO Jim Maddy. "AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums are dedicated to the conservation of these species and collaborate not only with each other but also other like-minded organizations to help secure the future of all wildlife."

Some examples of the species listed as Threatened or Endangered under the ESA that receive support from AZA-accredited facilities include:

Wyoming Toad (ESA Status: Endangered)

Working with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and other partners, AZA's Wyoming Toad Species Survival Plan® (SSP) program engages many facilities in the recovery of this toad, an animal that was declared to be extinct in the wild in the 1990s.Accredited zoos and aquariums both rear the toad for release into the wild, as well as participate in annual field surveys to determine the health of the animals in the wild. Facilities that recently raised toads for release into the wild and/or participated in surveys include the El Paso Zoo, Toledo Zoo, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, Utah's Hogle Zoo, Detroit Zoo, and the Como Park Zoo and Conservatory. 

Elkhorn and Staghorn Coral (ESA Status:Threatened)

Accredited aquariums and zoos support SECORE, a partnership dedicated to coral conservation through research, education,outreach, and restoration. Aquarium and zoo staff, along with funding, support research into developing protocols for capturing wild gametes of both Elkhorn and Staghorn coral, raising them, and reintroducing these and other endangered coral species into the wild. Some of the facilities most recently engaged in this long-term effort include the John G. Shedd Aquarium, Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium, Columbus Zoo & Aquarium, Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, Steinhart Aquarium, Texas State Aquarium, and Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium. 

Attwater's Prairie Chicken (ESA Status:Endangered)

Since the mid-1990s when the wild population dropped to only 42 birds, Houston Zoo, Inc., Fossil Rim Wildlife Center, Abilene Zoological Gardens, Caldwell Zoo, SeaWorld San Antonio, and the San Antonio Zoo have partnered with FWS and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to manage captive assurance colonies of Attwater's Prairie Chicken for reintroduction and recovery of this endangered species on reserves in south Texas. 

Conasauga Logperch (ESA Status: Endangered)

The Tennessee Aquarium developed methods for breeding this 6-inch darter and has begun releasing young Conasauga logperch back into the pools where their parents had lived in order to supplement wild populations. Extensive research by staff helps the aquarium and its partners understand and maintain the fish's genetic diversity. 

Karner Blue Butterfly (ESA Status:Endangered)

While healthy populations of the Karner blue butterfly remain in a handful of its historic range states, the Karner blue butterfly disappeared from Ohio in 1992. In 1998, the Toledo Zoo became the first institution to breed the Karner blue butterfly for reintroduction into the wild at restored sites and later offered assistance to the Detroit Zoo so that butterflies could be released at a site in southeast Michigan as well. Other facilities,including the Buttonwood Park Zoo and Roger Williams Park Zoo, are actively involved in propagating the butterfly's host plant, wild lupine, for habitat restoration efforts in New Hampshire. 

Jaguar (ESA Status: Endangered)

From northern Mexico, south through Belize, Costa Rica, Guyana,and Brazil, accredited zoos are actively engaged in jaguar conservation efforts to help mitigate human-jaguar conflict by working with impacted communities, understand habitat use and protect key areas, respond to problem animals preying on livestock,work with governments to develop practical management policies, and more. Some of the facilities involved in these efforts include the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, El Paso Zoo, Erie Zoo, Fresno Chaffee Zoo, Happy Hollow Zoo, Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens, Memphis Zoo, Philadelphia Zoo, Phoenix Zoo, Roger Williams Park Zoo, Safari West Wildlife Preserve, San Diego Zoo Global, Santa Ana Zoo, SeaWorld San Diego, Sedgwick County Zoo, The Living Desert, Bronx Zoo/Wildlife Conservation Society, Woodland Park Zoo, and Zoo Miami 

Gopher Tortoise (ESA Status: Endangered)

Gopher tortoises threatened by development are often relocated but have a tendency to leave their new sites, exposing them to increased risk of road mortality. Accredited zoos are involved in understanding site use and studying methods for improving site fidelity and survival, monitoring populations under various land management strategies, and working with partners to engage landowners and others in the tortoise's conservation. Some facilities involved include Disney's Animal Kingdom, Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens, and Riverbanks Zoo & Garden. 

Signed into law by President Nixon on December 28, 1973, the purpose of the Endangered Species Act is to protect and recover imperiled species and the ecosystems upon which they depend. It is administered by the Interior Department's U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The FWS has primary responsibility for terrestrial and freshwater organisms, while the responsibilities of NOAA cover mostly marine wildlife, including whales and anadromous fish such as salmon.

More information about the ESA can be found on the FWS and NMFS websites. 

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 six 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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