Our Mission and
in 1924, the American Association of Zoological Parks and Aquariums,
now known as the American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA), is a
nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of zoos and
aquariums in the areas of conservation, education, science, and
recreation. AZA's vision is to work cooperatively to save and protect
the wonders of the living natural world.
201 zoos and aquariums throughout North America have met AZA's
accreditation standards and are members of AZA. Each AZA member is
unique, from the five-acre zoo to the 322,000 square-foot aquarium to
the 3,000-acre wildlife center. Our members offer a rich array of
animal and habitat displays for visitors to learn from and enjoy. For
example, some aquariums focus strictly on freshwater aquatics, while
others are renowned for their displays of saltwater habitats. AZA-accredited
zoos vary widely as well, from drive-through safaris with African
animals to walk-through habitats of North America species.
addition to zoo and aquarium facilities, AZA is proud to number among
its members commercial enterprises whose products and services support
zoos and aquariums, non-profit facilities that are not open to the
public but are still dedicated to the health and well-being of animals
and thousands of individuals. All told, there are over 6,000 caring,
committed professionals, businesses and related organizations who are
members of AZA.
is the leader in establishing and maintaining high standards for zoos
and aquariums through our accreditation process. Accreditation is a
detailed review and inspection process covering all aspects of an
institution's operation including the animal collection; veterinary
care; physical facilities; safety; security; finance; staff; governing
authority; support organization; involvement in education,
conservation, and research; and adherence to AZA policies. To be
accredited, an institution must be a permanent cultural facility which
owns and maintains wildlife, is open to the public on a regular basis
and is under the direction of a professional staff. Accreditation
takes place every five years and is required for zoos and aquariums to
be members of AZA.
addition to accreditation, AZA also conducts a similar evaluation to
certify for membership those facilities maintaining wildlife that are
not regularly open to the public.
Conservation and Science department coordinates, facilitates and
promotes the work of AZA members in managing their captive populations
and conducting and overseeing zoo and aquarium-based and field-based
conservation, research and education projects. Some of the cooperative
programs that the Conservation and Science department facilitates are:
AZA's Species Survival
Each SSP carefully maintains a healthy, self-sustaining captive
population that is genetically diverse and demographically stable. SSP
members also cooperate on research, public education, and
reintroduction, where possible, and field projects to protect species
and their habitats.
Taxon Advisory Groups (TAG)
TAGs facilitate forums for discussing husbandry,
veterinary, ethical and other critical issues that apply to entire
taxa or groups of related species. TAGs also assist in selecting
species for AZA conservation programs; develop regional collection
plans; establish priorities for exhibition, management, research and
conservation; examine animal management techniques based on scientific
studies; and assist SSP coordinators in developing animal care
CAPs help to coordinate the conservation and
scientific activities of AZA institutions working in specific
SAGs focus on the research activities of member
is a fundamental tenet of AZA and vital to members' missions. The
Conservation Education Department works directly with members to
create education messages for the public. These messages stress the
importance of conservation and its impact on individuals as well as
the natural world.
programs the Department promotes are:
A celebratory educational event held in May at over
100 AZA members nationwide, honoring the return of migratory birds
from their southern non-breeding grounds to their northern nesting
Suitcase for Survival
A joint project of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the World
Wildlife Fund and AZA, that teaches middle school students about the
increasing threats to wildlife caused by the proliferation of the
illegal wildlife trade.
Conservation Exhibitry Award
An award which recognizes excellence in aquatic exhibits that have
conservation education incorporated into the design and presentation.
Zoo and Aquarium
that provides a reliable, ongoing flow of collective impact data and
future trend information to leaders of AZA's member institutions.
Conservation Education Department also spreads the message of
conservation to individual members of AZA through workshops and
professional schools. These programs promote professional development
for all levels and disciplines of the zoo and aquarium industry.
works cooperatively with the U.S. Congress, Federal/state government
agencies and international conservation organizations on legislative
and regulatory matters pertaining to animal welfare, wildlife
conservation field programs, conservation research/education
initiatives, and the public display of wildlife, including animal care
and husbandry, transport and captive breeding.
also participates in a number of international treaties and
conventions impacting wildlife, including the Convention on
International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), the International
Whaling Commission and the Convention on Biological Diversity.
as the voice of the Association, the Public Affairs Department assists
members in various matters of public interest, and promotes the work
of the AZA, its programs and members through local and national media
campaigns. The Public Affairs Department works in concert with other
Association departments to advance the mission of AZA and its member
year, AZA facilitates the coordination of several regional and one
major conference. These meetings provide a forum for zoo and aquarium
professionals to gather and discuss the issues that affect the
community at large. The conferences also provide the opportunity for
commercial members to exhibit their products and services to other AZA
members. Members receive discounts on annual and regional conference
offers a range of publications available to its members as part of
their membership, as well as to the general public. Two important
publications for the Association are the monthly news and membership
magazine, Communiqué, and the annual AZA Membership Directory.
AZA members receive some publications as member benefits; others are
sold at a discounted rate to AZA members.
advances conservation and conservation education through three
endowment funds. These funds are supported by gifts from members,
corporations and foundations.
Conservation Endowment Fund (CEF), founded in 1984, supports conservation, scientific and
educational initiatives of AZA member institutions and their
collaborators. The CEF has awarded grants to preserve species and
their habitats, educate the public, stimulate conservation action, or
support breeding and reintroduction of endangered or threatened
William Conway Leadership Fund for Conservation and Science, founded in 2000, ensures that conservation and science will
always be a vital part of AZA's collective mission, and develops
action programs that utilize the unique skills and resources of AZA
members. The Fund was established in honor of Dr. William G. Conway,
Director Emeritus of the Wildlife Conservation Society, and his
outstanding contributions to AZA's conservation and science programs.
Roy Disney Leadership Fund for Conservation Education, founded in 2000, strengthens conservation education for the
public; increases professional development for zoo and aquarium staff;
and seeds new cooperative projects to bring urgent species
conservation issues to the general public. The Fund was established in
2000 in honor of Roy Disney and his outstanding contributions to
animal conservation education.
AZA is supported primarily by dues and contributions from our members,
corporations also support AZA programs through national cause
marketing programs. In addition, foundations and government agencies
underwrite projects in specialized areas of mutual interest.
AZA moves into the 21st Century, the zoo and aquarium community is at
a historical juncture, demonstrating the critical nature of the
challenges ahead. Continuing to care for the living creatures of this
planet both in our facilities, as well as in the wild, will require a
combination of professionals dedicated to species and habitat
conservation, local and national governmental agencies, organizations
dedicated to wildlife, and an increasingly well-educated and
environmentally-informed public willing to become partners to preserve
our natural heritage for generations to come.