AZA 2014–First Thoughts on the First Day!

First day of AZA 2014 is complete! It was, as usual, a whirlwind! But I thought I’d share some quick key thoughts that have stuck with me as the day comes to a close:

sunset1. The link between conservation programming and communication to guests needs to be closed. Zoos and aquariums seem to still be straddling two worlds with limited connection between them. Is this an opportunity for designers to help bridge the gap?

2. Many powerful conservation campaigns exist, driven by and adopted by zoos and aquariums around the country. These programs are built for AZA institutions to easily implement them and garner support from visitors. But, the programs currently overlook a major sector of the AZA: commercial members. Is there a place for commercial members in conservation programs, other than simply donating of funds?

3. The animal rights activists are getting under our skin and we are starting to talk openly about the issues brought up by them, about how to better communicate the important work zoos and aquariums are doing / why certain decisions are being made / the fact that zoos and aquariums are THE experts, and also just about how pissed off we are…

I’ll expound on one or more of these later, but meanwhile, what are some of the key take-aways you’ve gotten so far? Please share your thoughts below!

PS Check out my session “Enrichment as Guest Experience” tomorrow, Tuesday, Sept. 16 at 4pm in Durango 1-2 featuring superstar experts from Chicago Zoological Society, Georgia Aquarium, Abilene Zoo, and Columbus Zoo!

6 thoughts on “AZA 2014–First Thoughts on the First Day!

  1. Hi Stacey, I think AZA Commercial Members can obviously get involved in conservation in many ways, depending on the core competencies offered. What I personally would most like to see, however, is that they lead the Z&A community and for-profit businesses in green operations. Conservation-committed zoo and aquarium suppliers can not only provide eco-friendly products and services but put sustainable practices into place for all industries and marketing verticals and also challenge zoos and aquariums to do everything they can to minimize their own footprints in their communities. And then the zoos, aquariums, and commercial members that are most successful at achieving that balance between economic and environmental sustainability could better infuse that component into the field conservation projects. Walking the talk and leading by example.

    • Fantastic idea Muri. I wonder if there is a way to formalize this as a commercial green committee or something similar. Would love your thoughts. Are you involved in AZA or just an interested party?

      • Hi Stacey, like you I have had both a long-time personal love of zoos and aquariums and periodic professional ties as well. At present I am focusing on family but I worked with commercial members at AZA for 5 years until about a year ago. I still follow the community and am keeping an eye on the conference social media again this year, which is how I saw your blog post.

      • (Hit “Post” too soon…) There are green businesses and there are green business practices. Many zoos and aquariums strive to be and do both. The same can be said of many commercial members. You are obviously aware that giving funds is certainly something that a successful company that cares about conservation can do. Of course, secondary support by helping AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums excel and paying dues to AZA matter too. But being truly committed means doing more. There is a broad range of options for stepping up but it is also important, I think, for maximum impact and credibility to operate top to bottom as a truly eco-friendly enterprise. AZA does have the Green Scientific Advisory Group but something more explicitly for and inclusive of Commercial Members is probably needed.

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