When it comes to zoo conservation, no group is more respected than the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. In the past five years, AZA-accredited zoos have enacted over 3,700 conservation projects totaling up to $89 million in over 100 countries. They are continuously working toward protecting endangered species with their Species Survival Plan program and genetically diverse breeding operations. The 110 SSP programs are aimed at saving more than 160 rare species. While saving the animals will undoubtedly take more than breeding, this group understands that preservation is also about habitat restoration and education too.
The AZA has many zoo conservation programs underway. In 2007, they announced some of their greatest success stories. For instance, the Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle nests are being protected along the Mexican Gulf Coast, with hundreds being added each year. Grevy’s zebras are being conserved in Kenya, thanks to the work of a Saint Louis Zoo. The Great White Shark is being preserved at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, where the animal exhibit hopes to change the public’s perception of these infamous trophy creatures. Butterfly monitoring in Florida, marmots at the Toronto Zoo and bald eagles in San Francisco are all successful programs underway.
Anne Warner, zoo conservation manager at the Oregon Zoo, said their $6.8 million “Predators of the Serengeti animal exhibit hopes to draw more attention to the plight of the cheetah, African lion and painted dog. She explains, “Visitors have to understand why it’s important to help — why support conservation?” At the artistic, innovative exhibit, guests will come nose-to-nose with lions, a caracal, African wild dogs and rock pythons that appear as though they’re lounging at a wildlife sanctuary, rather than a zoo. Careful landscaping, heated dens and waterfalls all make the animals’ realm more comfortable, as visitors are invited to imagine a world without these magnificent animals.