AZA News Releases

On World Elephant Day, AZA Encourages the Public to “Join the Herd” in Helping Elephants

Today is World Elephant Day, and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and its accredited zoos and aquariums are encouraging elephant fans to join in celebrating African and Asian elephants in a variety of ways to help raise awareness about the threats they face in the wild.   

 “As issues such as poaching and habitat destruction are international problems, it is now more important than ever for all of us to work together in helping elephants,” said Jim Maddy, President and CEO of AZA. “AZA and its members remain committed to elephant conservation, and not only on World Elephant Day, but also every day. We appreciate the public’s support and help in raising awareness about the issues elephants face in the wild, empowering the zoological community to have a positive impact on their future.”

African and Asian elephant populations have seen significant declines due to rapid habitat destruction and illegal poachers hunting for ivory. In the last 75 years, the Asian elephant population declined by at least 50 percent, leaving just 45,000 in the wild. In Africa, the demand for ivory has cut the elephant population by 76 percent since 1980. The demand for ivory is international and requires education and action to stop the illegal killing of elephants for their ivory tusks.Without a wide range of support and public action, poaching and habitat destruction could wipe out the African elephant population within 10 years. While conservation efforts for AZA-accredited facilities begin at home with the elephants in their care, their efforts also extend all the way to Asia and Africa to ensure a future for elephants worldwide.

“Over the last five years alone, 81 AZA-accredited zoos, aquariums, and certified-related facilities have contributed more than $5 million to elephant conservation programs,” said Debborah Luke, Ph.D, Senior VP, Conservation and Science at AZA. “Much of the combined funding consists of donations to the International Elephant Foundation, Amboseli Trust for Elephants, and the Wildlife Conservation Society’s 96 Elephants campaign. Support from AZA-accredited facilities helps these organizations and campaigns continue their crucial mission of fostering human-elephant coexistence, reducing pressure from the ivory trade and poaching, conducting vital ecological research on wild elephants, and furthering a variety of other on-the-ground field conservation measures.” 

Asian elephants are also one of the first ten species included in AZA SAFE: Saving Animals From Extinction (SAFE), which launched earlier this year on Endangered Species Day. AZA included Asian elephants in this initiative because while they are among the world’s most endangered species, their numbers can be positively impacted through zoos’ and aquariums’ dedication to education and conservation programs for the species.

AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums are very active in Asian elephant field conservation efforts and, between 2010 and 2014, contributed $1.5 million toward these initiatives.

SAFE is a collective effort to engage and enlist support from the 180 million annual zoo and aquarium visitors in order to decrease habitat threats and increase healthy populations for species in the wild, including the Asian elephant.

With the situation for wild elephants so precarious, it is important for those who truly care about elephants to take action before it is too late. By visiting elephants in AZA-accredited facilities, guests help make possible the field conservation, research, habitat restoration, reduction of human-elephant conflicts and community-based initiatives necessary to protect wild populations.

AZA and over 120 of its members are also proud partners of the 96 Elephants Campaign, which was named because it is estimated that 96 elephants are poached for ivory in Africa each day. Launched by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) in 2013 in support of the Clinton Global Initiative’s commitment to protect African elephants, 96 Elephants aims to, through public advocacy, secure a moratorium on the sale of ivory in the U.S., bolster protection of African elephants, and educate the public about the link between ivory consumption and the elephant poaching crisis. 

 “The United States Government has shown true leadership in the fight against poachers that currently kill 96 elephants each day,” said John Calvelli, WCS Executive Vice President for Public Affairs and Director of the 96 Elephants Campaign. “It is now up to all of us on World Elephant Day to be part of this ‘stampede’ to support the strongest possible ivory ban. Together, we can help save these majestic animals from extinction.”

For more information about SAFE and Asian elephants, visit

For more information about 96 Elephants and World Elephant Day, 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 seven 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 SAFE: Saving Animals From Extinction

SAFE: Saving Animals From Extinction combines the power of zoo and aquarium visitors with the resources and collective expertise of AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums and partners to save animals from extinction. Together we are working on saving the most vulnerable wildlife species from extinction and protecting them for future generations. To learn more, visit

About 96 Elephants

WCS is leading global efforts to save Africa’s elephants and end the current poaching and ivory trafficking crisis. In September, WCS launched its 96 Elephants campaign ( to amplify and support the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) “Partnership to Save Africa’s Elephants” by stopping the killing, stopping the trafficking, and stopping the demand. The WCS campaign focuses on: securing effective moratoria on domestic sales of ivory; bolstering elephant protection; and educating the public about the link between ivory consumption and the elephant poaching crisis.

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