AboutZoos, Since 2008


U.S. Zoos & Aquar­i­ums mobi­lize to end extinc­tion of world’s most vul­ner­a­ble species

pub­lished 17 May 2015 | mod­i­fied 17 May 2015

SAFE Saving Animals From ExtinctionThe 229 zoos and aquar­i­ums accred­ited by the Asso­ci­a­tion of Zoos and Aquar­i­ums (AZA) announced on 15 May a bold new effort focused on sav­ing species from extinc­tion and restor­ing them to healthy sized pop­u­la­tions in the wild. SAFE: Sav­ing Ani­mals From Extinc­tion will deepen the already sub­stan­tial sci­ence and con­ser­va­tion work on endan­gered species occur­ring at AZA-​accredited zoos and aquar­i­ums by engag­ing the 180 mil­lion annual aquar­ium and zoo vis­i­tors and part­ners across the world to pro­tect habi­tat, decrease threats, and restore pop­u­la­tions to sus­tain­able levels.

To mark the launch of SAFE and to begin engag­ing the pub­lic in this impor­tant work, coin­cid­ing with the tenth anniver­sary of Endan­gered Species Day in the U.S., endan­gered ani­mals at many AZA-​accredited zoos and aquar­i­ums across the coun­try will “van­ished” on 15 May. This means that their exhibits were closed or cur­tained off or oth­er­wise marked to illus­trate what is at stake if no action is taken. At each exhibit where the endan­gered species have “van­ished,” vis­i­tors received infor­ma­tion about how they can take steps to sup­port con­ser­va­tion and ensure that these impor­tant species are pro­tected for gen­er­a­tions to come.

At its core, SAFE rep­re­sents a new and unique oppor­tu­nity to com­bat the extinc­tion cri­sis and save vital species
Jim Maddy, Pres­i­dent and CEO of AZA »

With thou­sands of sci­en­tists and con­ser­va­tion­ists — more than any other sin­gle con­ser­va­tion orga­ni­za­tion — 750,000 ani­mals in their care, and more access to the pub­lic to the tune of 180 mil­lion vis­i­tors annu­ally, AZA-​accredited zoos and aquar­i­ums are poised to make a tremen­dous dif­fer­ence.” said Maddy.

The lead­er­ship of the AZA-​accredited zoo and aquar­ium com­mu­nity has worked inten­sively over the past two years, review­ing the sci­ence to iden­tify more than 100 species that are fac­ing seri­ous threats. These species are crit­i­cal to main­tain­ing over­all ecosys­tems, and zoos and aquar­i­ums have unique sci­en­tific exper­tise and resources to improve their con­ser­va­tion status.

In 2015, SAFE will focus on 10 key species from that list:

» African Pen­guin
» Asian Ele­phants
» Black rhi­noc­eros
» Chee­tah
» Goril­las
» Sea Tur­tles
» Sharks and rays
» Vaquita
» West­ern pond tur­tle
» Whoop­ing Crane

Every year for at least the next decade, 10 or more species will be added to SAFE based on the most cur­rent sci­ence and the avail­abil­ity of resources.

For more than 100 years, AZA-​accredited zoos and aquar­i­ums have been lead­ers in species sur­vival and are already work­ing to restore more than 30 species to healthy wild pop­u­la­tions, includ­ing the Amer­i­can bison, the Cal­i­for­nia con­dor, the black-​footed fer­ret and a num­ber of aquatic species. AZA-​accredited zoos and aquar­i­ums col­lab­o­ra­tively man­age more than 450 Species Sur­vival Plan® pro­grams, as well as are invest­ing more than $160 mil­lion each year in field con­ser­va­tion work in more than 100 coun­tries across the globe. The wors­en­ing and accel­er­at­ing extinc­tion cri­sis, which many sci­en­tists refer to as the “Sixth Extinc­tion,” chal­lenged AZA-​accredited zoos and aquar­i­ums to sig­nif­i­cantly increase their efforts.

In many cases, the sci­ence and con­ser­va­tion com­mu­nity knows what must be done to save these species and many inde­pen­dently man­aged efforts have been ini­ti­ated to tackle one or more areas of focus at a time,” said Den­nis Pâté, AZA Board Chair and Exec­u­tive Direc­tor and CEO of Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquar­ium. “We will con­vene all part­ners work­ing on sav­ing the AZA SAFE species, who will col­lab­o­ra­tively iden­tify and pri­or­i­tize the essen­tial con­ser­va­tion actions needed. We will then pro­vide the resources and mobi­lize our 180 mil­lion vis­i­tors to help save these species and restore them to sus­tain­able pop­u­la­tions in the wild.”

For years, we have worked closely with AZA-​accredited zoos and aquar­i­ums, but SAFE is really a game changer for us,” said Dr. Stephen van der Spuy, Exec­u­tive Direc­tor at SANC­COB, the South African non-​profit organ­i­sa­tion that is lead­ing the effort to pro­tect African pen­guins and other sea birds in South Africa. “By strate­gi­cally focus­ing the work of AZA-​accredited zoos and aquar­i­ums, by bring­ing new resources, and by engag­ing the mil­lions of zoo and aquar­ium vis­i­tors in sav­ing African pen­guins, we’re con­fi­dent that SAFE can help make a real impact at sav­ing these birds from extinction.”

This bold, com­pre­hen­sive approach is already attract­ing sig­nif­i­cant sup­port. Ini­tially, SAFE launched with a $1 mil­lion chal­lenge grant from noted con­ser­va­tion­ists Mark and Kim­bra Wal­ter. Since then, the chal­lenge has been suc­cess­fully matched and their gift has con­tin­ued to gen­er­ate addi­tional phil­an­thropic inter­est and invest­ment in this crit­i­cal initiative.

SAFE has also drawn sig­nif­i­cant cor­po­rate sup­port from ALEX AND ANI, Fish­Flops® and Frito-​Lay North Amer­ica. ALEX AND ANI, the Rhode Island based eco-​conscious lifestyle brand, cre­ated a pen­guin charm as part of their award-​winning CHAR­ITY BY DESIGN® pro­gram, and it has already become a top seller, gen­er­at­ing funds that sup­port con­ser­va­tion work at AZA-​accredited zoos and aquar­i­ums. In the same spirit of giv­ing back, 17-​year-​old entre­pre­neur Madi­son Nicole Robin­son, cre­ator of the pop­u­lar children’s line of shoes Fish­Flops®, is cre­at­ing a spe­cial line of flip flops and slip­pers to ben­e­fit SAFE, with a por­tion of her sales going directly to SAFE con­ser­va­tion projects. As an AZA part­ner, Frito-​Lay North Amer­ica is ral­ly­ing fam­i­lies’ sup­port for SAFE with a com­mit­ment to match every dol­lar donated to the cause, up to a max­i­mum of $100,000, through June 15, 2015. In addi­tion to match­ing dona­tions made through the site, Frito-​Lay will donate $1 for each social share, per per­son, per day, of an endan­gered ani­mal fact made through the site in an effort to encour­age fam­i­lies to spread aware­ness about the impor­tant cause. Dona­tions for social shares will also count towards Frito-Lay’s max­i­mum $100,000 donation.

Fun is at the heart of every­thing we do and it’s what we hope to inspire with our vari­ety packs of snacks,” said Ryan Matiyow, senior direc­tor of mar­ket­ing, Frito-​Lay. “Through our part­ner­ship with AZA, we’re able to bring fam­i­lies around their shared pas­sion for ani­mals and to sup­port a cause that will help ensure fam­i­lies can expe­ri­ence the won­der of wildlife for gen­er­a­tions to come.”

About SAFE: Sav­ing Ani­mals From Extinc­tion
SAFE: Sav­ing Ani­mals From Extinc­tion com­bines the power of zoo and aquar­ium vis­i­tors with the resources and col­lec­tive exper­tise of AZA-​accredited zoos and aquar­i­ums and part­ners to save ani­mals from extinc­tion. Together we are work­ing on sav­ing the most vul­ner­a­ble wildlife species from extinc­tion and pro­tect­ing them for future gen­er­a­tions. More infor­ma­tion here.

(Source: AZA news release, 15.05.2015)

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Tiger map” (CC BY 2.5) by Sander­son et al., 2006.

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