The Importance of AZA-Accredited Zoos

There’s never been a more important time in history for the mission of a modern accredited zoo.

We are facing a mass extinction crisis in which we play a key role in a better outcome. Many species are on the brink of extinction, fighting against habitat destruction, environmental changes, poaching and loss of food sources. The population of the Earth has tripled in the last 70 years and there are now 7.9 billion people on the planet. As a Zoo accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, we have an opportunity and responsibility to help our community seek ways to live in better balance with the planet and to support conservation efforts to ensure that we protect the future of all species and their environments.

Whether you visit one time or are a loyal member, by visiting accredited zoos, you are contributing to valuable conservation programs both in managed environments like zoos, aquariums and wildlife preserves, and also helping animals struggling to survive in disappearing wild places.

Access to Wildlife for All

Most of us will never experience a polar bear in its natural habitat. We see animals on television and in the cinema; we hear about them on the news — but the two-dimensional image of an animal on a screen is very different from experiencing the magnitude of a giraffe’s height, the thundering roar of a lion, or the curious eyes of an orangutan in person. Many of us do not have the economic or logistical means of seeing wildlife in their natural habitats. Accredited zoos allow everyone, across any socio-economic background, to know, understand and feel the incredible emotional reaction that comes with experiencing wildlife eye-to-eye and nose-to-nose. Zoos open our hearts to feel compassion. They bring us together as family members, as a community, and also as a collective for a cause.

The Heart and Soul of Your Zoo

The heart of your Louisville Zoo has always been providing a place for people to relax and enjoy time with their families, a way to escape from the stress of daily life and connect back to nature. Even during the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic, we heard many thankful comments from guests, grateful to be able to escape from a confined, anxious environment and reconnect with animals and each other.

We are honored to be able to provide this respite. However, the soul of the modern accredited zoo, your Zoo, is and will always be conservation education — inspiring compassion for wildlife. So many of the courageous people who work to protect animals both in zoos and in the field felt their first spark of compassion for wildlife visiting animals at the zoo.

Saving Species

AZA facilities have a history of saving species, including the American bison, the golden lion tamarin, red wolf, and black-footed ferret among many others. More than 30 species would cease to exist without AZA-accredited facilities like our Louisville Zoo. Under our watchful care, these populations are being rebuilt.

AZA Zoos carefully work to safeguard genetically diverse populations of animals in state-of-the-art environments built to resemble their natural habitats. We ensure our animals are healthy, comfortable, well-nourished, safe, able to develop and express species-typical relationships, behaviors, and cognitive abilities, and not suffering from unpleasant states such as pain, fear, or distress. Our animal care is based on decades of comprehensive scientific research and evidence. This knowledge is critical to not only managed populations, but also when populations in the remnant wild become endangered and need help coming back from the brink, or need to be rescued when natural disasters occur, like the Australian wildfire disaster in 2019-20, which impacted 3 million animals.

Your Louisville Zoo, as an active member of the AZA — with many keepers participating in or leading Species Survival Plan (SSP) programs — continually strives to protect the future of these vulnerable species. SSP programs and AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums significantly contribute to field conservation efforts, species recovery, habitat preservation, veterinary care for wildlife disease issues, and many other very important species-focused conservation actions like building awareness of species and habitat endangerment.

Visits to the Louisville Zoo support programs like Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International; Zoo funding was instrumental in putting extra team members out in the field to protect gorillas from poachers. Your visits support work in partnership with Polar Bears International and the Alaskan U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to assist with species recovery and rescue animals like iconic polar bear, Qannik, from dire circumstances.

Your visits support species survival programs like the Zoo’s successful black-footed ferret recovery program. Black-footed ferret conservation started with only 18 animals remaining of an entire species previously thought extinct. Through 30 years of effort, headed up by dedicated keeper Guy Graves, The Louisville Zoo has now introduced over 700 ferrets into monitored wild environments. Our Zoo has produced more kits than any other participating zoo and also initiated the AZA SAFE program for black-footed ferrets.

Zoos bring together the community to rally for critical causes, leveraging support for reputable programs and organizations that can and are making a difference. Working together we can protect wildlife and natural resources for future generations.