AZA News Releases

Association of Zoos and Aquariums Announces Annual Honors and Awards Recipients

SILVER SPRING, Md. – The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) recognized the achievements of over 30 member facilities in the fields of conservation, education, research, exhibit design, marketing, sustainability, and volunteer engagement during the annual AZA conference this September in Seattle.

AZA also recognized four individuals who have demonstrated their passion for wildlife conservation and made significant, ground-breaking contributions to the zoo and aquarium profession.

AZA awarded the organization’s highest honor, the R. Marlin Perkins Award for Professional Excellence, to J. Stephen McCusker, Director emeritus of the San Antonio Zoo and past chair of the AZA Board. Dr. Jackie Ogden, the 2017 recipient of the Perkins Award, was also recognized for her long-term career with Disney’s Animals, Science, and Environment team and her role in establishing AZA’s Saving Animals From Extinction (SAFE) program.

For the first time, AZA presented its inaugural Animal Welfare Lifetime Achievement Award to animal behaviorist and conservationist Dr. Terry Maple, Director of Wellness and Professor in Residence at Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens.  A visionary in the zoo community for nearly 40 years, Dr. Maple’s research has improved the quality of life for countless animals.

AZA celebrated the legacy of the late Dr. Michael Hutchins with the Devra Kleiman Award for Scientific Advancement. Dr. Hutchins, who passed away in early 2018, lead the zoo and aquarium community’s conservation and science efforts for fifteen years as AZA’s Director of Conservation and Research.

“We are proud to honor the distinguished leaders in our profession for their outstanding accomplishments,” said AZA President and CEO Dan Ashe. “Their contributions and mentorship have inspired all within the zoo and aquarium community to advance AZA’s mission of creating a world where all people respect value, and conserve wildlife and wild places.”

The 2018 Honors and Awards recipients are as follows:

William G. Conway International Conservation Award:

  • Top Honors – Minnesota Zoological Garden, Houston Zoo Inc., and North Carolina Zoo for “Scaling Up Community-based Rhino Conservation in Namibia”
  • Significant Achievement – Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens, Columbus Zoo & Aquarium, Dallas Zoo, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Houston Zoo Inc., Nashville Zoo, San Diego Zoo Global, and White Oak Conservation Center for “Over Three Decades of Protecting the Endangered Okapi and Its Habitat”
  • Significant Achievement – Houston Zoo Inc., Columbus Zoo & Aquarium, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens, and Nashville Zoo for The Lowland Tapir Conservation Initiative, Brazil”
  • Innovation – North Carolina Zoo and Wildlife Conservation Society for “The Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool (SMART) project helps to protect species around the world”
  • 20 Year Achievement in Conservation Award – Disney’s Animal Kingdom and The Seas at Epcot for “Disney Conservation Fund: Saving Wildlife. Inspiring Action. Protecting the Planet.”

North American Conservation Award

  • Top Honors – Houston Zoo and Fort Worth Zoo for “Houston Toad Recovery Program”
  • Significant Achievement – Brevard Zoo, Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society and Santa Fe College Teaching Zoo for “Perdido Key beach mouse Species Survival Plan program”

Exhibit Award – institutional operating budget over $5 million:

  • Top Honors – Sedgwick County Zoo for “Reed Family Elephants of the Zambezi River Valley”
  • Significant Achievement – San Diego Zoo Global for “Africa Rocks”
  • Significant Achievement – South Carolina Aquarium for “Zucker Family Sea Turtle Recovery™”

Angela Peterson Excellence in Diversity Award

  • Significant Achievement – Wildlife Conservation Society for “Project TRUE (Teens Researching Urban Ecology)”
  • Significant Achievement – Akron Zoological Park and Birmingham Zoo for “Sensory Inclusive Zoo Initiative”

Education Award – institutional operating budget under $5 million:

  • Top Honors –WAVE Foundation at Newport Aquarium for “The Living Curriculum Initiative”
  • Significant Achievement – Western North Carolina Nature Center for “Expanding Impact through Targeted Low Income Outreach Education”

Education Award – institutional operating budget over $5 million:

  • Top Honors – Chicago Zoological Society-Brookfield Zoo for “Naturestart™”
  • Significant Achievement – Seattle Aquarium, Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, and Woodland Park Zoo for “Fostering Empathy for Animals: A Collaborative Project”
  • Innovation – Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre for “AquaVan 150: Connecting Communities to Coastlines”
  • Community Engagement – Detroit Zoological Park for “Celebrate Urban Backyards”

Green Award for sustainable business practices

  • Significant Achievement – Calgary Zoo

Excellence in Marketing Award – campaign budget less than $175,000

  • Top Honors – Akron Zoological Park for “Curious Creatures”
  • Innovation – Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden for  “#Team Fiona”

Excellence in Marketing Award – campaign budget more than $175,000

  • Top Honors – San Diego Zoo Global for “Africa Rocks”
  • Significant Achievement – Saint Louis Zoo for “Our Promise”

Volunteer Engagement Award

  • Top Honors – Houston Zoo, Inc. for “Houston Zoo Volunteers: An Empowered Culture”
  • Significant Achievement – Seattle Aquarium for “Youth Ocean Advocates Volunteer Program”
  • Innovation – Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens for “Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens Volunteer Program”

To learn more about AZA’s Honors and Awards, 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, education, science, and recreation. Look for the AZA 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 global wildlife conservation, and your link to helping animals in their native habitats. To learn more visit

Posted by Ashley Jones at 09:00
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