SAFE Species

What Are SAFE Species Programs?

SAFE Species programs protect threatened animals; build on established recovery plans and track records of commitment; prioritize collaboration among AZA member institutions; implement both strategic conservation and public engagement activities; and measure and report real conservation. 

Get Involved!

Explore which SAFE Species programs are already active or have proposals currently under review and help them achieve their conservation goals.

Interested in creating a new SAFE Species program? Download a proposal today! Proposals will be reviewed by the Field Conservation Committee (FCC) as they are received. A Liaison from the FCC will shepherd the proposal through the review process so that a decision on the proposal is made within two months of submission. Contact AZA’s Conservation and Science Department with questions.

Spread the word about SAFE! Tell your staff and governing authorities about SAFE and inspire them to become involved. AZA has developed a presentation that you are welcome to use to share the SAFE story. This presentation is available on the Governing Authorities Resource Center page (member log-in required).

Eligibility Criteria 

Each of the following criteria must be met in order to be eligible to become a SAFE Species (AZA Board-accepted, July 2017)

  1. Be threatened with extinction
  • Threatened (VU, or EN, or CR or, EW) according to IUCN’s Red List; or 

  • Equivalent threat level according to relevant government agencies (e.g., US or non-US federal/state/provincial, etc.); or 

  • Listed as protected under CITES I or II; or 

  • Demonstrates science-based evidence that the species population is under extreme distress and has not yet been listed under recognized threat levels. 

  1. The species has established conservation plan(s) (e.g. recovery plan, biodiversity management plan, PHVA action plan, etc.) in place.  The SAFE Species Program can be either holistic or can be more targeted (e.g., regional, focused on one sub-species, etc.) as long as the program is clearly tied to a larger conservation plan. 
  2. Appropriate stakeholders (e.g. IUCN SSC Specialist Groups, USFWS recovery teams, range state wildlife offices, other NGOs, researchers focused on relevant taxa or issues) are identified and/or engaged.
  3. Two or more AZA-accredited zoos or aquariums/certified related facilities have an established commitment for conducting/supporting active conservation work on this species (as exemplified in AZA Accreditation Standard 3.2.1) for a minimum of 2 years.
  4. If accepted as a SAFE Species, the Project Team agrees to:

  • Develop a three-year plan within six months for SAFE activities that includes measurable conservation objectives that will advance the established conservation plan(s), including conservation/science and public/stakeholder strategies as they address existing conservation threats.
  • Develop communication objectives to increase awareness of SAFE program activities; target audiences should include not only program stakeholders but also the general public, media and other audiences as appropriate. 
  • Increase member involvement in the conservation of the species to at least five AZA facilities. 

  • Follow the SAFE Species Processes and Protocols. 


Program Leaders

The Program Leader position holds important responsibilities critical to the success of AZA’s SAFE Species programs. His or her primary responsibility is to work AZA partners to create a three-year Program Plan that includes measurable field conservation and public engagement actions, and that will engage additional collaborators over time. Programs Leaders will be individual members of AZA, as well as full-time, paid employees of an AZA-accredited zoo or aquarium or certified related facility. Program Leaders should submit Statements of Individual Commitment and Institutional Support with the program application and be able be able to commit to the three-year position duration.

SAFE Species programs report on their activities at least twice a year. Annual Reports are due August 10 and Mid-Year Progress Reports are due February 15. 

Find a Zoo or Aquarium Donate to AZA Contact Us Member Login Search the site