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 animals. National Zookeeper Week (July 15 to July 21) recognizes the contributions keepers and aquarists make to animal care and welfare, conservation, research, and public education. These individuals are essential to providing the highest quality care for our animals 24 hours a day, seven days a week, including feeding, cleaning, enrichment, training, and monitoring animal health. The job requires physical strength as well as advanced biological knowledge and critical thinking skills. AZA keepers show immeasurable commitment, often working overtime or on-call hours, motivated by a strong passion for wildlife and the bonds they form with the animals in their care.

The Association of Zoos and Aquariums is incredibly proud of our keepers, and all of the staff at AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums. That’s why we are launching the AZA “Find Our Heroes” video contest!  Our goal is to find four heroes to feature in AZA’s next ad. We know there are thousands of amazing stories within the AZA community about why each individual at an AZA-accredited facility comes to work each day, and we want to share your stories. We are inviting staff and volunteers at AZA-accredited facilities to share their own motivations and experiences in a short, (up to two minute) video. This contest will highlight the important work we do and show why zoos matter. The top 10 heroes will be picked by a panel of judges, and shared in an online voting contest. AZA is excited to be working with Stephanie Arne, host of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom and co-founder of the Creative Animal Foundation, as our contest host. In fact, I’ll let her tell you how excited she is to host our contest. Check out Steph’s contest announcement video here! Our four heroes will be unveiled at the AZA Annual Conference in September and star in our next ad, debuting in early 2019.

I would like to thank every individual at our 232 accredited facilities who allow AZA to achieve our mission. Our animal care professionals provide direct care to over 800,000 animals, including many that are threatened or endangered. Their expertise has led to the creation of nearly 500 Species Survival Plans ® and the highest-quality animal care accreditation standards in the world.  They are engaged in in-situ and ex-situ conservation, with the AZA community contributing over $220 million to field conservation in 2017 alone.  

The most common question AZA receives from the public, especially students, is “how can I become a keeper?” To me, this demonstrates just how much the day-to-day contributions of our keepers and aquarists are worth. I hope those interested will be motivated to learn more about careers in AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums and to #JoinUs in our mission.

From all of us at AZA, thank you to our aquarists and keepers, and Happy ZooKeeper Week!

PS – You can find the full “Find Our Heroes” video contest background and rules on our site here: https://www.aza.org/heroes.


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