AZA News Releases

Coalition Hosts Wildlife Trafficking Summit, Launches Wildlife Confiscations Network

Silver Spring, Md. (March 11, 2020)—The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), San Diego Zoo Global, and AZA’s Wildlife Trafficking Alliance organized a two-day summit in late February to discuss efforts to combat wildlife trafficking and the challenges presented when wild animals and plants (wildlife) are confiscated by law enforcement.  The summit led to the establishment of the Southern California Wildlife Confiscations Network (“the Network”), a pilot program establishing a framework to reduce wildlife trafficking and increase support for law enforcement.

Wildlife trafficking has increased dramatically over the past decade, and several U.S. and state government agencies are on the front lines addressing these illegal activities in the Southern California region.  Successful wildlife law enforcement often involves the seizure, confiscation, and subsequent holding of a diverse array of wildlife, which comes with a unique set of challenges.  Due to the increasing number of confiscations, and the complexities involved in caring for the live wildlife that are the victims of the illegal trade, it is important that effective and coordinated management approaches are developed.

The Network will operate under the umbrella of the Wildlife Trafficking Alliance, a program of AZA, and includes more than twenty U.S. government agencies, California Fish & Wildlife Department, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), universities, botanical gardens, and certified facilities of the Global Federal of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS).  The “Southern California” region includes the following counties: San Diego, Los Angeles, San Luis Obispo, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, Santa Barbara, and Imperial.

“Many AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums already work closely with law enforcement agencies to provide critical support for the victims of the illegal wildlife trade,” said Dan Ashe, President, and CEO, Association of Zoos and Aquariums.  “We are pleased to formalize this work, through the establishment of the Confiscations Network, to assure the ongoing conservation of threatened species and the welfare of individual animals and plants.”

“Wildlife trafficking is a serious crime that impacts imperiled species throughout the world,” said Edward Grace, assistant director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement. “When live wildlife and plants are seized at U.S. ports of entry, it is critical to provide the highest standard of care, as quickly as possible. It is also essential to grant safe and appropriate housing for species that cannot be returned to their country of origin. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proud to work with a broad spectrum of law enforcement and conservation partners to ensure the health, well-being and proper care of all seized wildlife and plants in our custody. This newly forged partnership will help conserve animals and plants for future generations.”

“Animals and plants are being illegally trafficked at alarming rates. The impacts on the species is driving them to extinction and challenging for law enforcement agencies. San Diego Zoo Global and many other AZA zoos and aquariums have a long history of providing sanctuary for animal and plants that have been confiscated by law enforcement agencies,” said Michael Mace, Corporate Director of Animal Collections, San Diego Zoo Global.

The Network plans to replicate the framework developed in southern California throughout the U.S. and internationally.  To learn more, visit:


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 San Diego Zoo Global

Bringing species back from the brink of extinction is the goal of San Diego Zoo Global. As a leader in conservation, the work of San Diego Zoo Global includes on-site wildlife conservation efforts (representing both plants and animals) at the San Diego Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, as well as international field programs on six continents. The work of these entities is made accessible to over 1 billion people annually, reaching 150 countries via social media, our websites and the San Diego Zoo Kids network, in children’s hospitals in 12 countries. The work of San Diego Zoo Global is made possible with support from our incredible donors committed to saving species from the brink of extinction.

About Wildlife Trafficking Alliance

The Wildlife Trafficking Alliance is a coalition of more than 80 leading nonprofit organizations, companies, and AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums that work together to combat wildlife trafficking by raising public awareness, reducing consumer demand for wildlife and wildlife products, and mobilizing companies to adopt best practices stop wildlife trafficking. WTA is a program of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. 

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