From the Desk of Dan Ashe

Join Us- Be an AZA Hero!

The dedicated staff at AZA-acredited zoos and aquariums are advocates, defenders, champions, and friends of animals in the wild and in our care. Over 200,000 professionals work within AZA aquariums and zoos, and all are united in our efforts to conserve wildlife and wild places. They are truly heroes. This week, along with the American Association of Zoo Keepers , we recognize a special subgroup of AZA Heroes- the individual zookeepers and aquarists that provide direct care for... Read More
at Friday, July 20, 2018

#IAMSHARK - Are you?

Sharks are mysterious, important and fascinating, but also misunderstood or feared.  While scientists still have a lot to learn about these animals, we know that lack of limits and unsustainable fishing has led to major population declines.  While this is a global and complex problem, aquariums and zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, along with their members and visitors, can contribute to the solution.  Nearly a quarter of all shark and ray species are... Read More
at Thursday, July 12, 2018

Animal Welfare Comes 1st during July 4th Celebrations

All over the country, the Fourth of July, with its spectacular fireworks, concerts, and parades, is an exciting time of year. It’s also the time of the year when AZA is often asked how these revelries affect animals at accredited zoos and aquariums. Many AZA-accredited facilities host July 4 th celebrations or are located near areas where the events take place, giving guests the opportunities to enjoy the festivities during their visit. But the question is:  do the celebrations come... Read More
at Thursday, June 28, 2018

Standing Tall for Giraffe

What better day to celebrate the giraffe than June 21 st - the longest day of the year? World Giraffe Day, falling on the same day as the summer solstice, raises awareness and funding for conservation initiatives benefitting wild giraffe. It also gives us the chance to highlight the tremendous care giraffe receive at AZA-accredited facilities. Giraffe are beloved by the general public, but not everyone realizes the disastrous impacts that poaching and habitat destruction have had on wild... Read More
at Thursday, June 21, 2018

Invest in the Nest- One Year Later

Exactly one year ago, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and its members launched a first-of-its kind Kickstarter campaign with a big goal: to help save endangered African penguins from extinction. Our “Invest in the Nest” campaign aimed to raise $150,000 in just 30 days to fund the creation and installation of artificial nests for penguin colonies in South Africa and Namibia. With the help of the zoo and aquarium community and thousands of generous Kickstarter... Read More
at Friday, June 15, 2018

AZA Members Pledge Against Plastic Pollution on World Oceans Day - and Every Day

Plastic products are a part of our everyday lives. Although some uses are beneficial, when one stops to think about the amount of unnecessary plastic we use each day, it really adds up! Bags, beverage bottles, straws, tableware, packaging, and other ordinary household products – it seems impossible to envision a world without it. But plastic has also become a problem—especially for marine life. Approximately 60% of the world’s litter is plastic and almost 10% of that ends up... Read More
at Thursday, June 7, 2018

Raise a Glass for Conservation

For dozens of AZA-accredited facilities, Memorial Day weekend kicks off the summer event season, including many “Brew at the Zoo” events. Over the summer, our members across the country will host unique, fun, 21-and-over events.  Whether featuring local craft beer or animal-inspired cocktails, summertime adult-only zoo brew events allow our facilities to connect with their community and to engage those who are seeking a unique way to support their local AZA member’s... Read More
at Thursday, May 31, 2018

At the AZA, Every Day is Endangered Species Day

As members of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, we have a deep passion for the well-being and protection of animals, but while many of us within our community have dedicated our careers to helping save species from extinction, we are also acutely aware it is not a challenge we can solve on our own – as individuals or as an organization. Luckily, our recent study shows that people throughout the U.S. want to be allies in this work.   The findings of this study provide key... Read More
at Thursday, May 24, 2018

"THE ZOO" May Have Aired its Season Finale, but AZA Members Continue to Share Our Stories

This weekend, Animal Planet aired the Season Two finale of its highly successful series THE ZOO, which highlights the AZA-accredited Bronx Zoo, its staff, and its animals. THE ZOO is one example of the steps our members take to tell our stories and give people an intimate look at the important work taking place at AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums. Zoos and aquariums have been hesitant to bring the public behind-the-scenes. Whether out of apprehension, modesty, or the sheer complexity of the... Read More
at Thursday, May 17, 2018

Update on Historic Radiated Tortoise Rescue

Through AZA SAFE: Saving Animals From Extinction , AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums are working together to protect some of the world's most vulnerable species, such as the critically-endangered radiated tortoise. I wanted to share with you a note from our colleague, Rick Hudson, President and CEO of the Turtle Survival Alliance  (TSA). Rick, TSA staff and staff from nearly 40 AZA-accredited facilities are or have been in Madagascar assisting with the historic rescue of 10,000... Read More
at Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Go Green with AZA this St. Patrick's Day

AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums are dedicated to protecting wildlife and wild places.  And while our members take part in field conservation around the world, they also know that sustainability must start at home. AZA facilities are leaders in green business practices, constantly finding ways to incorporate sustainability into daily operations and reduce our collective environmental impact. The results are astounding. AZA facilities reported generating or purchasing 42.4 megawatts... Read More
at Thursday, March 15, 2018

Celebrating the 20th Anniversary of FrogWatch USA

This year, AZA celebrates the 20th anniversary of its citizen science program, FrogWatch USA™! Since the program began, FrogWatch USA has given individuals, groups, and families the opportunity to learn about wetlands in their communities as they listen for the calls of local frogs and toads. The data collected about these important animals can be used to monitor species and ecosystem health and to inform conservation and management efforts. In recognition of two decades of this valuable... Read More
at Thursday, March 8, 2018

Advocating the Importance of Aquariums, Zoos, and Museums

Earlier this week, I joined representatives from the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) and several of our AZA-accredited members on Capitol Hill for the 10 th Annual Museums Advocacy Day. Museums Advocacy Day is AZA’s chance to join with other museums to demonstrate to Congress the importance of federal funding and other issues affecting museums and emphasize how museums, zoos, and aquariums are essential partners at the federal, state, and local levels in providing education and... Read More
at Thursday, March 1, 2018


Our world and our nation are undergoing rapid social change, which I believe is at the root of our current, unsettling and disruptive politics. Think how our collective societal views have changed, and continue changing, on things like gay marriage, LGBTQ equality, marijuana legalization, and in our professional orbit, animal rights, protection, and welfare. Change is disruptive, and that is reflected in today’s social dialogue and politics—coarse, angry, and sometimes a bit scary.... Read More
at Thursday, February 15, 2018

AZA Celebrates Valentine's Day

On Valentine’s Day and every day, zoo and aquarium professionals at AZA-accredited facilities show their love and commitment to the animals in their care. Here are a few examples of how our 230 members are celebrating the special day. At Detroit Zoo’s Heart Fest , animals enjoyed special heart-themed enrichment items like treat filled piñatas as part of a comprehensive animal care program at the Zoo that ensures animal habitats are ever changing and stimulate natural... Read More
at Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The Importance of Animal Encounters

I greatly enjoyed reading Sadie Dingfelder’s January 4 Washington Post article “Stalking an elusive YouTube star: The adorkable red panda,” which highlights just one of the many unique behind-the-scenes experiences offered to visitors at AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums. Animal encounters, like those that Ms. Dingfelder‘s family participated at Oglebay’s Good Zoo, provide an increasingly rare and precious commodity in today’s world —connections to... Read More
at Tuesday, January 16, 2018

We Can Conserve Elephants Without Hunting Them

As of January 1, China – the world’s largest market for elephant ivory – has banned the import or trade of ivory in the country. There has also been a lot of commentary regarding the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decision to resume Zimbabwe elephant hunting trophy imports. I feel that commentary is missing important perspectives. I was the USFWS Director who approved the 2014 import ban. The original action is portrayed as “an Obama Administration ban.” It... Read More
at Thursday, January 4, 2018

Celebrating the Season with ZooLights

The holiday season is fast approaching, and all over the country, AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums are getting into the holiday spirit with ZooLights and other celebrations. Staff and volunteers at over 50 AZA facilities have ornamented their zoos and aquariums with festive, creative decorations, and the end results are absolutely incredible! From animal-themed glowing light displays and scuba-diving Santas, there’s no shortage of holiday cheer. Throughout the holidays, our... Read More
at Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Reflections on “Invest In The Nest”

As Global Tiger Day approaches on July 29 th and AZA members prepare to showcase the magnificent animals through a special series of Facebook Lives with Animal Planet , I can’t help but reflect on our association’s extraordinary teamwork. It was just a few weeks ago that we surpassed our “ Invest In The Nest ” campaign goal on Kickstarter afterall. We know African penguins are a species in peril in large part because of loss of habitat. “Invest In The... Read More
at Friday, July 21, 2017

The National Geographic Photo Ark Exhibit

Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to see the National Geographic Photo Ark exhibit at the Dallas Zoo and the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden . I’ve also had the chance to hear Joel Sartore, the photographer, speak about conservation, and the role zoos and aquariums play in that. I found Joel’s talk and Photo Ark to be an incredible experience, as did Mike Norton, the executive vice president of Norton Outdoor Advertising, a three-generation family-owned business... Read More
at Wednesday, May 31, 2017

AZA Partnering in the March for Science

“The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it.” ― Neil deGrasse Tyson On April 22, 2017 – Earth Day – thousands of citizens will unite their voices in support of science, in what is being called the March for Science. The website for this effort includes this mission statement: The March for Science champions robustly funded and publicly communicated science as a pillar of human freedom and prosperity. We unite as a... Read More
at Monday, March 20, 2017

Thoughts on the Endangered Species Act

Last Wednesday , I testified on the Endangered Species Act before the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee . I wanted to share with you my remarks: Thank you, Senator Inhofe. It’s a joy to be back here once again. From 2011 to January of 2017, I served as director of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. My confirmation was considered in a hearing by this committee and today I sit here as President and CEO of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, or as we... Read More
at Wednesday, February 22, 2017

54 Years of Caring for Packy

The cover of the May 11, 1962, edition of Life magazine featured Bob Hope and proclaimed a "Brilliant Evening at the White House."  John F. Kennedy was president. And inside was an 11-page story heralding the birth of a 225-pound Asian elephant at Portland's Oregon Zoo. That elephant -- named Packy -- has earned the endearment of Portland, our nation, and the world. Early in the morning, on Thursday, February 9, 54-years after that Life magazine article, the animal... Read More
at Friday, February 10, 2017

Bitten By The Wildlife Bug

When I was 12 years old, I was bitten by a copperhead that I was trying to catch.  While the snake got away, that experience and many others gifted me with a lasting love of wildlife.   A native of Atlanta, Ga., I grew up with a deep appreciation of native wildlife and lizards, snakes, turtles, birds, bugs, and once, a mother possum and four kits, were all part of any given day in the Ashe home. My father was a 37-year career employee of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service... Read More
at Thursday, February 9, 2017

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