From the Desk of Dan Ashe

"The Immeasurable Distance between Late and Too Late"

We all know many axioms of life and literature that warn about the consequences of "too little, too late." William Shakespeare wrote, “Better three hours too soon than a minute too late” and Ralph Waldo Emerson penned, “You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.” And despite the broad consensus within the scientific and environmental community that we are living amid climate and extinction crises, we continue to wait,... Read More
at Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Inspiration from the 2018 International Conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade

This past week, I joined Sara Walker, Senior Advisor on Wildlife Trafficking at the AZA, and over 3,000 other wildlife conservation enthusiasts in London for the 2018 International Conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade (IWT).  It seems less frequent these days, but sometimes leaders do what leaders are supposed to do. The London IWT Conference was one of these moments! The British Prime Minister, several African and Asian Heads-of-State and first-ladies, His Royal Highness Prince... Read More
at Friday, October 12, 2018

Reflections from AZA's 2018 Seattle Conference

In late September, almost 3,000 zoo and aquarium professionals gathered in Seattle, Washington for the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ 2018 Annual Conference. The Conference provided an opportunity to network with colleagues, discuss best practices, share new research and explore cutting-edge products and services. This past year, AZA achieved several significant milestones, all of which were celebrated throughout a special week in the Pacific Northwest: ... Read More
at Thursday, October 4, 2018

The Politics of Addition

Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said, “Politics is human beings; it’s addition rather than subtraction.” In general, we become stronger as we add others to our community or coalition, and weaker when we subtract or exclude participants. However, how do we work with others, especially when their fundamental values may differ from ours? Should we work with them at all? Many in our community are voicing their opinions on these topics after seeing, or hearing about... Read More
Posted by Ashley Jones at Thursday, October 4, 2018

Congratulations, Heroes!

How does one define a “hero?” Merriam Webster’s Dictionary defines a hero as a “mythological or legendary figure often of divine descent endowed with great strength or ability.” But a hero does not have to be fictional.  A hero is an individual who confronts fear or hardship in a selfless pursuit for a noble cause. A hero protects the vulnerable, and inspires others to achieve their dreams. I can think of no better example of “heroism” than the... Read More
at Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Weathering the Storm

We cannot always predict natural disasters, or their possible effects. But when last week’s Hurricane Florence loomed over the Carolinas, our members were prepared. During an emergency, there is nothing more important than the safety of our staff, our animals, and our guests. AZA’s rigorous accreditation standards require our member zoos and aquariums to have in place risk management plans, and to perform at minimum four emergency drills per year for potential emergencies,... Read More
Posted by Ashley Jones at Thursday, September 20, 2018

Training Tomorrow's Leaders

School is starting up again – for kids across the country, as well as within the AZA community. AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums are on the cutting edge of every aspect of the zoological profession and lead groundbreaking work in conservation, science, animal management, and more. They not only utilize the latest techniques, information, and tools available, but they also develop them. One of AZA’s strategic promises is to empower zoo and aquarium professionals to be leaders in... Read More
at Friday, September 14, 2018

Vote Now: AZA "Find Our Heroes" Video Contest

I'd like to thank the 95 individuals at AZA-accredited facilities who took the time to submit videos for the AZA " Find Our Heroes " video contest. My fellow judges and I enjoyed watching each one. One of AZA's strategic promises is to tell powerful stories, and each submission did precisely that. The AZA community's enthusiasm and dedication to our profession will assure us all a bright future. We did, however, have to narrow the choices down to 10 videos for... Read More
Posted by Ashley Jones at Thursday, August 30, 2018

Celebrating Elephants

Elephants, the world’s largest land mammal, are facing enormous threats. Poaching, habitat destruction, and human-wildlife conflict are driving these species closer to extinction – with 96 elephants killed every day in Africa for their ivory tusks.  It’s a shocking statistic, and one that AZA and its members are determined to reverse. That’s why AZA and the U.S. Wildlife Trafficking Alliance are expanding our elephant conservation initiatives by joining the... Read More
Posted by Ashley Jones at Thursday, August 16, 2018

The Value of Having Cetaceans in Human Care at Accredited Aquariums and Zoos

I’ve spent my entire 37-year career in the field of conservation. I can count many accomplishments, but few make me prouder than those opportunities when I’ve been able to support the protection of places, great and small, but especially the areas that stand apart as ecosystems unto themselves — like the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument. These are amazing places, increasingly rare in a world where human populations are... Read More
at Monday, August 6, 2018

Saving (U.S.) Species

Those of us in the United States are probably familiar with the bald eagle as a symbol of strength and freedom. But did you know the U.S. has an official national mammal as well? The National Bison Legacy Act, signed into law in May 2016, officially declared the North American Bison as the U.S. National Mammal.  Every November, AZA, the Wildlife Conservation Society, and other partners meet with Congressional representatives in observance of the federally-recognized National Bison Day.... Read More
Posted by Ashley Jones at Thursday, July 26, 2018

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

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