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How Zoos and Aquariums Protect Endangered Species

By AZA Staff
min read

How do Zoos and Aquariums Protect Animals?

A visit to a zoo or an aquarium is an opportunity to see the beautiful and diverse wildlife our world has to offer. Zoos and aquariums around the world offer an incredible up close and personal view of nature.

More than 230 top zoos and top aquariums of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) work to provide safe habitats, medical care, and a nurturing environment for their animals. AZA and our members work to protect endangered species in numerous ways, including:

  • Conducting, supporting, and funding research and conservation
  • Advocating for conservation and wildlife, funding, and science
  • Working with government agencies, universities, non-governmental organizations, and other partners to establish conservation initiatives

Drive Conservation and Research

AZA-member zoos and aquariums have participated in and supported more than 2,500 conservation projects in more than 100 countries each year. AZA-accredited members have driven millions of dollars to these efforts, spending more than $200 million in both 2016 and 2017.


The Association of Zoos and Aquariums Conservation Grants Fund (CGF) provides financial support to a variety of these projects, which are working to protect animals through conservation education, habitat and resource conservation, research, reintroduction, breeding, saving species, and more, including:


With the support of AZA-member funding, threatened and endangered animals around the world are protected from poachers, habitat destruction, and environmental dangers.


Advocate for Conservation and Funding

AZA has developed numerous committees to promote the best in animal care, animal welfare, conservation, and other disciplines to support wildlife. These groups work closely with members and others, including public and private organizations to advance their missions of animal care, raising awareness, and engaging stakeholders. These committees include:

  • Animal Health Committee
  • Animal Population Management Committee
  • Animal Welfare Committee
  • Aquarium Affairs Committee
  • Conservation Education Committee
  • Government Affairs Committee
  • Research and Technology Committee
  • Wildlife Conservation Committee

Advance Conservation Science and Research

AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums offer state-of-the-art facilities and research programs which allow expert staff to provide important information to the scientific community to protect endangered species and their habitats.


AZA SAFE: Save Animals From Extinction

AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums are an essential part of species conservation. AZA SAFE: Saving Animals From Extinction focuses the collective expertise within AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums and leverages their massive audiences to save species. SAFE builds on established recovery plans, prioritizes collaboration among AZA members, implements strategic conservation and stakeholder engagement activities to create measurable progress for conservation. With 19 SAFE species, AZA-member facilities are working to save vulnerable animals around the world. Conservation projects within SAFE include breeding programs, species reintroduction efforts, habitat conservation, education, and more.  


Work with Government Agencies on Conservation

AZA and AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums frequently partner with other organizations, including government agencies, to protect endangered species and their environments. Zoos and aquariums are an essential part of the recovery program for many endangered species listed under the Endangered Species Act. Without the help of keepers, veterinarians, researchers, and educators working for and with zoos and aquariums, many recovery programs would not have the tools and resources they need to prevent extinction.

The AZA also works with the U.S. Congress and Federal agencies on matters pertaining to animal care and welfare, wildlife conservation field programs, conservation, and other scientific research, education initiatives, and more to further conservation and animal welfare. Globally, AZA participates in the Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) to protect wild animals and plants threatened by trade. It also combats illegal wildlife trade and trafficking and has joined forces with the Wildlife Trafficking Alliance to expand partnerships and fight wildlife trafficking globally.


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