Conservation Education Standards and Policies

AZA is dedicated to maintaining and promoting standards of excellence in all aspects of education. Accreditation Standards and Board approved policies have been established to ensure this objective is met and often evolve to meet increasingly rigorous criteria.

Accreditation Standards for Education

AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums are required to meet or exceed all AZA Accreditation Standards, including those relating to education. All AZA-accredited institutions must ensure that education is a central tenet in their mission, must develop a written education plan that matches current industry standards, and must regularly evaluate their education programs. The education plan should include the institution's conservation messages. Elements evaluated for accreditation include:

  • The number of staff dedicated to education programming
  • That at least one paid staff member is dedicated to education
  • How the education message is conveyed to the casual visitor
  • Publications, brochures, or other printed material
  • Classrooms and teaching areas
  • The availability of funds allocated for education programs
  • The level of education department contact with local schools, colleges, and other academia
  • The volunteer, docent, and outreach programs
  • The level of outreach programming and whether appropriate Program Animals are being used
  • How interpretive graphics and exhibits are developed, designed, and contain appropriate information.

Board-Approved Policies for Education

AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums are also required to follow all education-related AZA Board-approved policies including the Animal Contact, Ambassador Animal, and Presentation of Animal policies:

  • The Animal Contact Policy provides recommendations to minimize zoonotic disease transmission and identifies safety precautions related to keeper attire and behavior.
  • The Ambassador Animal Policy recognizes that the use of any program animal comes with a host of responsibilities including the ensuring the welfare, health and safety of the animal, handlers, and public, and stresses the importance of ensuring that conservation take-home messages are received by the audience.
  • The Presentation of Animals Policy stipulates that animals should always be presented in ways that inspire respect for wildlife and nature.

Board-Approved Position Statements

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