AZA News Releases

Updated “Heroes Act” Includes Funding to Care for Endangered Species

As losses mount, AZA-accredited facilities need federal support to ensure care.

Silver Spring, Maryland (September 30, 2020) – For decades, members of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) have stepped up, volunteering to help the federal and state governments fulfill their responsibilities to conserve endangered species. Now, these facilities need help from their government. Thankfully, the U.S. House of Representatives has shown up, including $30 million in much deserved and needed assistance for aquariums and zoos to continue caring for these animals in the updated Heroes Act.

“Modern, accredited zoos and aquariums exist to help save animals from extinction. Under normal circumstances, AZA members happily use guest revenue to produce, raise, and rescue endangered species for reintroduction or release, and provide lifetime care for those that cannot be returned to the wild, but these are not normal circumstances,” said Dan Ashe, President and CEO of AZA. “Our members are facing drastically reduced revenue due to necessary visitation limitations, but the costs of providing veterinary care, housing, and food do not go away. The animals cannot be furloughed, and neither can the everyday care delivered by zoological professionals. I am very pleased leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives have included funding to support zoos and aquariums as they continue to care for endangered species.”

Earlier this year, AZA urged congressional appropriators to provide $30 million for critically needed relief funding to AZA members who are providing direct and ongoing support to federal agencies by caring for rescued, confiscated, or threatened and endangered species listed under the Endangered Species Act and critical to federally recognized recovery and reintroduction plans.

Red wolves, Mexican wolves, manatees, California condors, southern sea otters, hellbenders, polar bears, and Florida Reef Tract rescued corals are just a few of the many federally protected species in our care.

Normally, funding from people visiting AZA facilities is used to support their participation in recovery and reintroduction efforts, eliminating or minimizing the need for federal support. With the drastic loss of revenue, some may soon have difficulty continuing to fund animal care, life support systems, maintenance operations, or other costs associated with these efforts. Without help, other critical efforts, such as support to field conservation efforts around the world, will suffer.

“Prior to joining the AZA, I had a 22-year career with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, including nearly six years as Director. I have a keen appreciation of how much the government relies on accredited zoos and aquariums. We estimate it will cost AZA members at least $5 million per month for the next six months to maintain operations and care for these species,” continued Ashe. “I am hopeful Congress will act swiftly and reach a compromise that includes at least $30 million in relief funding to support our continuing care for endangered species.”

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 12 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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