[CORRECTED] On Endangered Species Day, Association of Zoos and Aquariums Celebrate Third Year of Successful Collaborative Conservation Initiative

Two Additional Species Added to AZA SAFE: Saving Animals From Extinction as Program Enters Third Year

Silver Spring, Maryland, UNITED STATES

Silver Spring, Maryland, May 18, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Over the last three years, facilities accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) assisted in the rescue of more than 10,000 critically endangered radiated tortoises from the illegal wildlife trade, built and installed hundreds of artificial nests in African penguin colonies, and conducted innovative research on an emerging wildlife disease impacting western pond turtles in Washington state. These projects are just a few examples of important conservation work supported through AZA SAFE: Saving Animals from Extinction (SAFE) ®, now in its third year. This Endangered Species Day, AZA celebrates SAFE’s successes and announces the addition of two new species to the program.

“Conservation of endangered animals in human care and within their natural habitat is integral to AZA’s mission of protecting wildlife and wild places,” said AZA President and CEO Dan Ashe. “While our accredited aquariums and zoos engage in important research, field conservation, and education every day, SAFE enables our members to call ‘all hands on deck’ in the most critical circumstances. I am thrilled to see the successes of the program so far and look forward to expanding SAFE and our influence in saving species from extinction.”

AZA SAFE was established in 2015 to combine the collective expertise and reach of AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums to save and protect the world’s most vulnerable species. While the program began with 10 signature species, the program now includes 16 species, with Atlantic Acropora corals and American red wolf added in 2018. Species eligible for the SAFE program are threatened with extinction, have a history of two or more AZA-accredited facilities engaged in their conservation, and have active recovery or conservation plans that promote recovery of the species in the wild.

AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums have long been centers of conservation, and in 2016, collectively contributed over $216 million to field conservation on behalf of nearly 800 species. SAFE builds on AZA’s commitment to conservation by prioritizing collaboration, incorporating both conservation and public engagement activities to advance species recovery, and measuring the effects of these activities. Each species program is created, led, and driven by a skilled and professional staff member at an AZA-accredited zoo or aquarium and supported by a project team of their colleagues from other AZA-accredited organizations and field conservation partners.

Recent AZA research shows people in the United States underestimate the number of animals protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act by less than one-tenth the actual number. While nine in ten people in the U.S. are willing to take steps to help save animals from extinction, they are unsure of how they can help. SAFE’s public engagement projects work to connect the 196 million guests who visit AZA-accredited facilities each year to larger conservation initiatives.

SAFE species include African vultures, African penguin, Atlantic Acropora corals, Asian elephant, black-footed ferret, black rhinoceros, cheetah, giraffes, gorilla, radiated tortoise, red wolf, sea turtles, sharks and rays, vaquita, western pond turtle, and whooping crane.  Program plans, some still in development, identify the essential conservation projects that will help implement recovery plans and lead to species recovery.

AZA’s 2017 SAFE Annual Report provides insight into the progress AZA members have made over the past year in supporting projects benefiting SAFE species. AZA seeks to engage 100% of its members in strategic field conservation and grow SAFE to include at least 30 species by 2023.

In addition to being supported by AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums, SAFE has also received significant support from Stonyfield OrganicFrito-Lay North AmericaALEX AND ANIBaby Jogger, New York Life, Gorilla SocksUnite for Literacy, and Zebra Pen. These companies and organizations have come on board to help save species from extinction by helping raise awareness of SAFE through national campaigns reaching millions of consumers.

To learn more about AZA SAFE and the projects AZA members are working on, visit www.aza.org/aza-safe.

About AZA

Founded in 1924, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of zoos and aquariums in the areas of conservation, animal welfare, education, science, and recreation. AZA is the accrediting body for the top zoos and aquariums in the United States and eight other countries. Look for the AZA accreditation logo whenever you visit a zoo or aquarium as your assurance that you are supporting a facility dedicated to providing excellent care for animals, a great experience for you, and a better future for all living things. The AZA is a leader in saving species and your link to helping animals all over the world. To learn more, visit www.aza.org.


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. To learn more, visit www.aza.org/aza-safe.