From the Desk of Dan Ashe

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 through animal welfare and conservation. 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 behavior. At Lincoln Park Zoo, guests of all ages created enrichment Valentines for the animals while learning about the benefits of enrichment. Continuing a yearly tradition, California Academy of Sciences distributed red felt hearts to its African penguins, which the male birds present to their mates and are then used as material for the couples’ nest.

This Valentine’s Day, our member zoos and aquariums are also sharing stories of successful matchmaking, many coordinated through AZA’s Species Survival Plan (SSP) programs. Check out Georgia Aquarium’s behind-the-scenes Facebook series “Aquarium Love Stories,” or read how Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo found the perfect partners for its bachelor sloth and red panda just in time for the special day. These love stories include human couples as well- SeaWorld Orlando is sharing a story of how a husband-and-wife aviculturist team met and fell in love while caring for marine birds 20 years ago.  

Zoo Miami and Kansas City Zoo are just a few of the many AZA-accredited facilities hosting adult-only date nights with an emphasis on educating visitors about husbandry and breeding. Zoo Miami ambassador Ron Magill taught visitors wild-but-true animal facts during “Sex and the Animals: A Wild Night for Conservation,” while Kansas City Zoo’s “Kiss and Tail” party offered a comedic look on love in the animal kingdom. At Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, lovebirds can attend the “Where the Wild Things Art” paint night, and create masterpieces while meeting their favorite animal ambassadors.

The Wildlife Conservation Society’s Bronx Zoo is raising funds and awareness through the Name A Roach program, which lets participants symbolically adopt a cockroach in honor of a special someone (or an ex).  The roach-themed gifts are not only a symbol of undying love, but  the proceeds will also be used for conservation projects aimed at protecting the future for other cherished species threatened with extinction. Alternatively, donors can give back to their local zoo through other Valentine’s adoption programs, like Virginia Zoo’s “Love them like no Otter” and Saint Louis Zoo’s Adopt a Sloth Valentine’s special.

To find your local AZA-accredited zoo or aquarium this Valentine’s Day, visit

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