AZA News Releases

Association of Zoos and Aquariums ‘Disappointed’ USFWS Declines to Afford Endangered Species Protections to Monarch Butterflies

Silver Spring, Maryland (December 18, 2020) – Despite dramatic declines, particularly in the western monarch population, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announced their long-awaited response to a 2014 petition to list the monarch butterfly under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Specifically, the Service decided to list the butterfly as “warranted but precluded,” which means that although the monarch is deserving of the benefits that the ESA protection affords, it is precluded from listing by other species in more urgent need.

“The failure to list monarch butterflies under the ESA is a call to action for the zoo and aquarium community and our partners to redouble our efforts to conserve the monarch," said Dan Ashe, President and CEO of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. "Our SAFE Monarch program partners are working hard to address habitat loss and other threats to the species, and we are counting on the public to support our efforts."

With 104 partners in the AZA SAFE: Saving Animals From Extinction® North American Monarch program, including several prominent monarch conservation organizations, zoos and aquariums are uniquely equipped to meet this critical moment through engagement, collaboration, and action. 

Anyone can contribute to saving this species merely by planting flowers. No matter if you plant flowers in a community garden, your backyard, or a flowerpot on your windowsill, you are providing vital food for butterflies and countless other valuable pollinators. Choosing native milkweed and nectar plants will best support a sustainable population of monarchs.

Ashe continued, “Members of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums strive to inspire people to plant milkweed and native plants for the benefit of monarchs and all pollinators and healthy ecosystems. While we are disappointed the monarch butterfly will not receive more timely protection, we embrace the opportunity to work alongside our partners at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the conservation of this iconic species.” 

You can read the full press release from the Service regarding their decision here:

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

Monarch photo credit: © Carmen Rucker, Audubon Nature Institute

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