Testimony Before the
House Subcommittee on Interior Appropriations
Daniel M. Ashe
President & CEO, Association of Zoos and Aquariums
Watch a video of the testimony here.
Good afternoon. It’s a privilege and pleasure to be back in front of you. A privilege because of the importance of your work to wildlife conservation. A pleasure because I neither have to present nor defend an agency budget.
The Association of Zoos and Aquariums – AZA – is the world’s leading zoological professional association. In order to be a member, a facility like Como Park Zoo and Conservancy or Cleveland MetroParks Zoo must meet our exacting accreditation standards – the world’s gold standard for a modern aquarium or zoo.
And our vision for a modern, accredited zoo or aquarium is of a purposeful place. Yes, fun and educational; where visitors create memories that last lifetimes. But, most importantly, places where a visit helps to conserve wildlife, and save animals from extinction.
Our 238 member facilities spent a collective $231 million on field conservation in 2018. That number will likely approach one-quarter billion dollars in 2019, and will continue growing. This is not a phase or fad. It’s who we are.
And we are passionate partners for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service, the U.S. Geological Survey, and their state, local and tribal counterparts.
We support their work to conserve and recover species like California condor, manatee, black-footed ferret, sea turtles, hellbender, American burying beetle, red wolf, rhinoceros, and dozens more. Your support for the Endangered Species Recovery Challenge Grants is inspiring this partnership and I hope you will expand funding for this program, and insert report language encouraging the Service to grow its partnership with accredited zoos and aquariums. Our members are ready and willing!
We are building exciting new partnerships with Interior Department agencies, and I’ll quickly mention three.
Since 2017, we have built a Zoo-Park Partnership, and this past year signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the National Park Service calling for 25 new partnerships over the next 5 years.
The Yosemite NP-San Francisco Zoo partnership is a perfect example. They just released their 1,000th endangered California Red-Legged Frog in an effort covering four valley floor habitats, where introduced bullfrogs had eaten up native populations. Park and zoo staff collect frog eggs and tadpoles, which are then reared at the zoo until ready for reintroduction around age two.
Through efforts like this, we are helping national parks and national wildlife refuges conserve species like sea turtles, corals, grizzly bear and bison, and linking AZA’s 200 million-plus visitors with their national parks and other public lands, and connecting urban America with wild life and the outdoors. Again, with the encouragement of report language, and a few new dollars, for NPS Natural Resource Management and USFWS Refuge Operations, we will grow momentum and excitement.
AZA’s signature conservation program is Saving Animals From Extinction or SAFE, and it is driving cooperative conservation of species from elephants, to sharks, to monarchs. Wildlife trafficking is a major cause of decline in many SAFE species, and through AZA’s Wildlife Trafficking Alliance we are working with the USFWS on an innovative pilot “confiscations network” to help rescue and care for animals victimized by illegal trade.
Finally, we’re developing a strategy to manage AZA’s entire polar bear population to support relevant conservation science. This will help the Service and others answer key questions about the effects of climate change, manage wild bears, and engage millions of visitors.
Ms. McCollum and subcommittee members, AZA’s members are already exceptional partners for the USFWS, NPS, and USGS. They are anxious to do more, nationally and internationally, to conserve wild life and save animals from extinction.
Your encouragement, through funding and report language, will inspire ever more cooperation and innovation.
Thank you for your time and attention, and as ever, I’m happy to answer any questions.
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