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Organisation Reference American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA)
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This information has been taken directly from the American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA) Website:

About Us

Our Mission and Members

Founded 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.

Over 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.

In 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.


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. 

In 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

AZA's 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 Plans® (SSP) 

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 guidelines.


Conservation Action Partnerships (CAP)
CAPs help to coordinate the conservation and scientific activities of AZA institutions working in specific geographical regions.


Scientific Advisory Groups (SAG)
SAGs focus on the research activities of member institutions.

Conservation Education

Education 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.

Some programs the Department promotes are:

International Migratory Bird Day
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 habitats.


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.


Munson Aquatic Conservation Exhibitry Award

An award which recognizes excellence in aquatic exhibits that have conservation education incorporated into the design and presentation.


Zoo and Aquarium Trends

An analysis that provides a reliable, ongoing flow of collective impact data and future trend information to leaders of AZA's member institutions.

The 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. 

Government Affairs

AZA 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.

AZA 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. 

Public Affairs

Serving 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 institutions. 


Each 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 registration fees. 


AZA 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. 

Endowments for Conservation Leadership 

AZA advances conservation and conservation education through three endowment funds. These funds are supported by gifts from members, corporations and foundations.

The 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 wildlife. 

The 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.

The 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.

Our Supporters

Although 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. 

The Future

As 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.

Dates Referenced March 2002
Contact Details

8403 Colesville Rd.
Suite 710
Silver Spring, MD 20910-3314
Phone 301-562-0777
Fax 301-562-0888

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Specific References (Please note - website addresses change frequently and all references are dated accordingly. If hyperlinks are no longer active, please inform us)

Reference Section of Website Specific Website link
W323.March01.WNV1 AZA Releases National Surveillance Plan for West Nile Virus, 5 October 2001 http://www.aza.org/Newsroom/PRWestNileVirus

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