When our design team comes across a really beautiful or fun award, they call me over to check it out. This is how I learned about the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA). Rivanna has been making FSC®-certified awards for AZA since 2011, honoring their members for Scientific Advancement Awards, Exhibit Awards, International Conservation Awards, and so on. Each award is unique, depicting an engaging photo that showcases that zoo or aquarium’s achievement or exhibit. The design team knew I’d find these plaques appealing because of my love for animals and nature.
Growing up, I believed that David Attenborough was akin to a grandfather figure, that littering warranted the highest punishment, and that Zoo Books and animal documentaries were the most exciting forms of education. I’d rather be with my dog than most humans (best not to look too extensively into that one). Either way, one thing should be clear: I have an unwavering love for animals. I believe they deserve as much respect and protection as anything else on this planet.
My family checks out zoos and aquariums in nearly every city we visit. For these reasons and many more, I resonate with AZA’s mission and their “vision of a world where all people respect, value, and conserve wildlife and wild place.” AZA represents more than 230 institutions facilities around the world, each upholding the highest standards of animal care, providing educational programs for their visitors, including more than 50 million children each year. As a frequent zoo-goer, I was not surprised to learn that many of my favorite zoos and aquariums, including those offering the most extensive roaming areas and educational programs, are AZA-accredited.
Through AZA’s educational programs and AZA SAFE: Saving Animals from Extinction, AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums focus on conservation science and wildlife expertise, helping to ensure the protection and care for species in the wild.
Whether in the wild or at home, animals deserve to be revered. We can learn so much from their disposition, resilience, and ability to forgive.
Trips to the zoo or aquarium fill children and adults with a sense of wonder, magic, and amazement. Connecting with animals in a safe environment can generate greater empathy toward the world’s creatures, encouraging all of us to change our habits and behaviors to minimize own impacts on our planet and to protect the animals and environments we love.
I may never witness a tiger in the wild, but I can feel good about seeing one at an AZA-accredited zoo. Chances are I’ll be wandering around the grounds with children and adults who feel the magic, as I do. AZA is so much more than a network of zoos and aquariums. AZA offers us an opportunity to connect to a wild, natural world that deserves our respect and protection.