From the Desk of Dan Ashe

Category: Blog

Earth Day is 50 Years Old! We Need a Reawakening!

This Earth Day , we are living through a singular moment. The global economy is slowing as governments around the world have issued mandates encouraging social distancing in order to avoid overwhelming national health systems–in the United States alone, COVID-19 has infected over 825,000 people and more than 45,000 people have died, many without the comforting presence of those whom they most love. As a nation, we’ve adopted unprecedented changes in behavior. Yes, these... Read More
at Wednesday, April 22, 2020

The Best of Times. The Worst of Times.

Charles Dickens’ opening line in A Tale of Two Cities seems poignantly relevant—“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Never have we had a better opportunity to make illegal, irresponsible, and unethical wildlife trade relatable than at a moment when people are scared, sick, and losing loved ones to a pandemic; and when the global economy is at a standstill at the cost of $7 trillion and growing. But never have we been so disabled as a community,... Read More
at Friday, April 3, 2020

Tiger King and the Cruelty of Private Ownership of Wild Animals

Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness , a Netflix documentary series gaining wide viewership during this time of social distancing and increased online streaming, shines a light on the cruel, abusive trade and mistreatment of wild animals in the United States.  People care deeply for animals and nature—We know that. It’s why nearly 200 million visit AZA member facilities each year. But Tiger King displays a malignancy that we must recognize and address.  ... Read More
at Monday, March 30, 2020

COVID-19 Update: Taking Action in Unprecedented Times

I want to begin by saying that I appreciate and admire Association of Zoos and Aquariums members’ dedication to our profession. Many staff from accredited zoos and aquariums and certified-related facilities are reading this from home, while some are diligently continuing to care for the animals at their facilities. Two weeks ago, two of our 238 members were closed: Ocean Park, Hong Kong; and Woodland Park, Seattle. Today, we are aware of 215 AZA members who are closed to the public,... Read More
at Monday, March 23, 2020

Helping Parents During COVID Closures

Guest blog by Allison Price, Director of Learning Experiences, Lincoln Park Zoo & AZA Conservation Education Committee Chair You can find a list of live streams and educational opportunitie s on AZA's new page . Zoos and aquariums are no strangers to helping the public through times of difficulty. Whether in the days after 9/11, when people came through our gates seeking a sense of normalcy and community or on the smaller everyday scale, when families experiencing... Read More
at Friday, March 20, 2020

Community Strength: AZA’s Commercial Member Engagement Council

Elder David Bednar said, “Guilt is to the spirit what pain is to the body.” As conscious and thoughtful beings, we all know that our existence, prosperity, and life quality come at the expense of other living beings—people, non-human animals, plants, and life forms we may not even know exist. We carry a burden of guilt, which for most of us evokes a need to give back, to do some good. It helps mend the pain in our spirit. That may be why today’s consumers are... Read More
at Friday, March 6, 2020

The Coronavirus, Wet Markets, and Action

Benjamin Franklin said, “ Diligence is the mother of good luck.” The coronavirus crisis, devastating in terms of human suffering and economic loss, may have a legacy of progress. Suddenly, world attention is focused on wild animal markets. Also known as “wet markets,” these are places where wild animals—alive and dead—are sold in public.  Wildlife markets throughout China and Southeast Asia sell a variety of species, including birds,... Read More
at Thursday, February 13, 2020

How a Recovery Conservation Program is Protecting this Rare Species of Minnow

PHOTO CAPTION: Rescued laurel dace awaiting transport back to Chattanooga. (Image: Tennessee Aquarium) Guest blog by AZA Staff. Endangered Species Profile: The Laurel Dace Unless you’re an avid fisherman who has ventured into streams along the Cumberland Plateau in eastern Tennessee, chances are you’ve never encountered a laurel dace.  The small species of minnow is native to a handful of small streams that feed into the Tennessee River. Most laurel... Read More
at Thursday, February 6, 2020

The Power of Community

Guest blog by Craig Hoover, Executive Vice President of AZA “If you want to go quickly, go alone.  If you want to go far, go together.”  This African proverb captures the power of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums community.  We see it in the 238 accredited members who continually raise the bar of what it means to meet the gold standard of a modern zoo or aquarium, constantly pushing to advance the health and welfare of the animals in their care. ... Read More
Posted by Craig Hoover at Thursday, January 30, 2020

Leading the Pack: The Mexican Gray Wolf and Social Change

Mexican Grey Wolf. Credit: Michelle Steinmyer/The Endangered Wolf Center In my 22 years with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service—what employees affectionately call “the Service” — wolves and wolf reintroduction were a source of constant pride, a sense of accomplishment, sheer frustration, and social and political turmoil. Releasing wolves to the northern Rockies was like shaking a bottle of champagne and popping the cork.  We knew they would... Read More
at Thursday, January 16, 2020

AZA Announces Inspectors of the Year

What does it take to be an AZA accreditation inspector? AZA’s rigorous accreditation process includes an on-site inspection by a team of experts within the zoo and aquarium profession. This helps assure our member facilities are meeting the highest standards in animal welfare and care, conservation, education, safety and security, scientific advancement, and many other areas important to running a quality facility. Serving as an accreditation inspector is not an easy job, but these... Read More
Posted by Ashley Jones at Thursday, January 9, 2020

Looking Ahead: The Future of Zoos and Aquariums

Over the last few days, we have looked back on the successes AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums celebrated in 2019. Now, as we enter into a new decade, it is time to look ahead. AZA-accredited facilities are leaders in the zoological profession, innovating the field of animal care and welfare. They are pioneers of conservation, spearheading projects around the globe. They are constantly expanding and improving guest experience, education, and veterinary care, in accordance with our... Read More
Posted by Ashley Jones at Thursday, January 2, 2020

Looking Back: Top Animal Births of 2019

At AZA accredited zoos and aquariums, every birth is cause for celebration. AZA’s Species Survival Plan (SSP) ® Programs oversee population management, including breeding recommendations, to ensure the sustainability of healthy, genetically diverse animal populations within AZA facilities. These baby animals are not only exciting – and adorable – new additions, many also represent hope for the future of their species. Let’s take a look back at some of the most... Read More
Posted by Ashley Jones at Monday, December 30, 2019

Looking Back: New Exhibits and Additions in 2019

Here's a look back at some of the major expansions, renovations, and animal additions this year, compiled by the AZA community and communications team. - Visitors flocked to Denver Zoo’s new immersive grizzly bear exhibit Harmony Hill. Home to two rescued grizzly bears, the exhibit intends to teach guests about how to better coexist with bears—and all wildlife—in the wild and their own backyards. The exhibit theming includes an area modeled after a National Park,... Read More
Posted by Ashley Jones at Thursday, December 26, 2019

Looking Back: Animal Welfare Breakthroughs

The dedicated professional staffs at AZA-accredited aquariums and zoos spend each and every day providing the best in animal care and welfare to the animals in their facilities. Whether they are hand-rearing abandoned newborns or providing geriatric care to older animals, these individuals work round-the-clock to provide the best quality care at every stage of life. AZA professionals are constantly improving the fields of animal welfare and veterinary care in order to accomplish these goals.... Read More
Posted by Ashley Jones at Monday, December 23, 2019

Looking Back: Best Conservation Stories of 2019

AZA-accredited aquariums and zoos are just as committed to protecting animals in the wild as they are to the animals in their care. Each year, AZA-accredited facilities contribute more than $200 million to conservation initiatives around the world. Several of these projects also take place within the local community. Let's take a look back on some of the greatest conservation stories of 2019, compiled by the AZA community and communications team. - The Indianapolis Zoo and the... Read More
Posted by Ashley Jones at Thursday, December 19, 2019

Let's Partner Against Wildlife Trafficking

The futures of conservation, human welfare, and the economy have one thing in common: they are each impacted negatively by the illegal trade of wildlife and wildlife products. Wildlife trafficking is the fourth largest global crime, just behind the drug trade, arms trade, and human trafficking, and shows no signs of slowing down. When most people think of the victims of wildlife trafficking, they often picture elephants, tigers, rhinos, pangolins, and other species sought for their furs,... Read More
Posted by Ashley Jones at Monday, December 9, 2019

AZA Announces 2019 Photo Contest Winner

Bertrand Duhamel, a volunteer at Zoo de Granby in Granby, Quebec, is the winner of the 2019 AZA Photo Contest. The winning image of Zwalani, a western lowland gorilla at the Zoo, speaks to both the strength and fragility of the animals in our care and their wild cousins.    Duhamel is a self-taught photographer with decades of experience and a great love for nature and wildlife photography.  He is also the first photo contest winner from a Canadian facility and the... Read More
Posted by Ashley Jones at Thursday, December 5, 2019

Soft Power and Climate Action

Yesterday (Monday, December 2, 2019), in Madrid, the 25 th Conference of the Parties to the U.N. Climate Change Conference began. There, nearly 200 nations will seek to build upon the four-year-old Paris Climate Agreement. U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres opened the meeting with some stark facts: icecap melting is alarming and accelerating. In Greenland, 179 billion tons of ice melted in July. Permafrost in the Arctic is thawing 70 years ahead of projections. Antarctica is... Read More
Posted by Ashley Jones at Tuesday, December 3, 2019

5 Gifts You Can Buy this Holiday Season that Help Protect Wildlife

How can I help protect endangered species? At the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, all of our work revolves around one important focus: to protect and conserve animals of all types. However, we cannot do it alone. Our mission is to preserve a diverse and unique world, and that doesn’t end with our team. AZA-accredited members partner with like-minded conservation organizations and businesses to accomplish our goals. Through these partnerships, we are protecting wildlife and their... Read More
Posted by Ashley Jones at Wednesday, November 27, 2019

AZA-Accredited Zoos and Aquariums Bring Holiday Spirit

The holiday season is a time for family, friends, and festivities, and it is also a great time to visit AZA-accredited facilities. Though the cold weather may detract some from visiting the zoo or aquarium, our facilities are ensuring an unforgettable guest experience with holiday decorations, events, and award-winning light displays.  This year, USA Today selected nominees for their annual 10Best Poll for Zoolights contest, and I am proud to announce that nineteen out of twenty... Read More
Posted by Ashley Jones at Thursday, November 21, 2019

A Good Example is the Best Sermon

For many, our nation’s politics are difficult to watch: divided; angry; petulant; and so many other disturbing adjectives.  But last week, national events reflected some of the positive social change that our community is leading. Benjamin Franklin said, “A good example is the best sermon.”  We saw a great example when the deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs—George Kent—testified in the Presidential impeachment... Read More
Posted by Ashley Jones at Wednesday, November 20, 2019

The Month of the Manatee

November is a stressful time of year for threatened Florida manatees. The gentle, slow-moving herbivores, also known as “sea cows,” have captured the hearts of Floridians, being named the official state mammal in 1975. Yet you might not know that sadly, humans are responsible for approximately half of manatee fatalities. A record number of Florida manatees – 119 - were killed by boat strikes last year. But humans are not their only threat. As winter approaches,... Read More
Posted by Ashley Jones at Thursday, November 14, 2019

Studying - and Saving - the Polar Bear

Polar bears are some of the world’s most unique animals: exquisitely adapted over evolutionary time to life on top of the Arctic sea ice, these massive carnivores rule the harsh and remote Arctic marine ecosystem. However, climate change and loss of sea ice threaten their very existence.  During November 3-9, AZA and our partners at Polar Bears International (PBI) are observing Polar Bear Week. Polar Bear Week coincides with the fall polar bear migration to Churchill, Manitoba,... Read More
Posted by Ashley Jones at Thursday, November 7, 2019

Happy Halloween with Bats, Bugs, and Other Not-So-Spooky Creatures

Halloween is upon us, and it is the perfect time of year for AZA-accredited zoos, aquariums, nature centers, and science centers to highlight creatures that may be considered “scary” to some, but are crucial for healthy ecosystems. People often associate Halloween with creepy owl calls, lone wolf howls, and sticky spider webs. Species seen as “frightening” actually play important and unique roles within their habitats, from cleaning up carrion to controlling for insects... Read More
Posted by Ashley Jones at Thursday, October 31, 2019

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