Multi-Species Husbandry Guideline Compilations

1. AZA Husbandry Manuals and Husbandry Guidelines (All Species)

AZA_logoAnimal Care Manuals from the AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums) can be your best friend.  These highly detailed documents outline the basics of design for an animal including sizes of exhibit, barrier types and heights, and elements required within the exhibit, such as a pool of specific depth, natural substrates, etc.  The AZA publishes these manuals on their website currently, but require that you have a password to access them (given only to AZA members).  The Association is currently undergoing the process of writing Animal Care Manuals for most of the animal species held in America’s zoos to replace the outdated Husbandry Guidelines for Mammals published in 1997.

Currently, the AZA has published ACMs for the following species:


If you need access to the 1997 Husbandry Guidelines (which are outdated, less extensive, and much more generic–but a place to start when you have absolutely nothing else to go on), let me know.

2. USDA / APHIS Guidelines (Marine Mammals)

Many people don’t realize the government sets standards for animal care in the United States.  However, these standards are very small and should be followed as minimums only as a double check that you haven’t made a gross error.  APHIS (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service) CFR (Code of Federal Regulations) covers all animals but provides meaningful information on Marine Mammals specifically.  Currently, with the exception of Polar Bears, the AZA does not have separate guidelines for marine mammals.  So, if you are working with marine mammals, you must use the USDA APHIS standards as your working minimum.

Follow link above and look under Chapter 1, Subchapter A, Part 3, Subpart E for Marine Mammals.

3. Australiasian Zoo Registry of Husbandry Manuals (All Species)

An independent registry dedicated to various sources for husbandry manuals published by associations and organizations around the world.  Some sources have direct links to web published manuals, which is very convenient, while others simply list a contact person with email and phone number.  I’ve found these contact people to be very helpful and generally reply in a timely manner.

4. IWRC Minimum Standards (North American Species)

The International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council share their  “Minimum Standards for Wildlife Rehabilitation”.  These guidelines, targeted for rehabilitators, outline minimum space requirements for common North American species not generally included in other husbandry manuals.  A great resource particularly for birds and reptiles.

 5. WAZA Virtual Zoo (All Species) 

The World Association of Zoos and Aquariums has published a species specific resource with tons of great information, including their recommended exhibit size minimums.  A great starting point.

Update (Jan. 2013): All sizing recommendations have been removed from the website, although behavioral and transport info are still available.

 6. DI’s Almanac of Architecture and Design: US Aquariums

Comprehensive list of North America’s aquariums along with vital stats like size, cost, year opened and architect.

Species-Specific Resources

1. AZA Elephant TAG Resource

The AZA Elephant TAG has created a concise resource for all things elephants including educational messaging content, exhibit design recommendations, conservation, husbandry resources among many other interesting and helpful info.

2. AZA Orangutan SSP Husbandry Manual

The full husbandry manual is updated and maintained by the Chicago Zoological Society along with an exceptional database of enrichment ideas.

3. Sharks and Rays Husbandry Manual

This detailed manual outlines how-to to design for and maintain sharks, rays, and chimaeras in captivity.

4. Manitoba’s Polar Bear Protection Regulations

The official government issued regulations pertaining to polar bears in captivity.  If your facility does not meet these standards, the Canadian government will not allow the export of bears to you.

5. Florida F&W’s Marine Turtle Conservation Guidelines

The complete document is targeted at sea turtle rehabilitators, but does include some useful sizing information for captive animals–providing a fairly comfortably sized enclosure.  Information specific to facility design can be found in Section 4.

6. AZA and EAZA’s Joint Flamingo Husbandry Guidelines

Includes detailed information for flamingos in captivity.  Massive bibliography supporting everything aspect of the birds.

7. AZA Penguin TAG Husbandry Manual

Information for all species of penguins in captivity.  Highly detailed and very useful.

8. Riverbanks Zoo’s Toucan Husbandry Manual

Great draft of husbandry manual by an AZA accredited zoo for this tropical bird.

9. AZA Ungulates Husbandry Manuals

Collection of hoofstock husbandry manuals from AZA TAGs. Includes Okapi, Wildebeest, Wild Cattle, Babirusa and many more.

General Resources

1. Zoolex Exhibit Gallery

Zoolex is a non-profit zoo design organization dedicated to the collection and dissemination of exhibit information from around the world.  The Gallery of Exhibits contains self-reported information from zoos on specific exhibits including photos, number of animals, exhibit size, construction cost, and much more.  A useful tool for bench marking.

2. The Shape of Enrichment 

Shape organizes loads of enrichment information online, publishes a monthly newsletter, and leads workshops with various institutions around the world.  Utilize the Enrichment Idea Database (found under the Services tab), or other free enrichment resources via their website, or order the monthly enrichment newsletter featuring dozens of great enrichment ideas for an annual fee.

9 thoughts on “Resources

  1. Pingback: Finally, a Convenient Resource for Basic Exhibit Info!! « Designing Zoos

  2. How can I get access to husbandry manuals and other contents on the AZA website? Unfortunately there’s not much info available here in Europe… Thanks

    • Miguel,

      Currently, AZA is undergoing a revamp of all of their husbandry manuals including adding new ones. Unfortunately, none of these resources are available through their website at this time. Additionally, when they do become available, you will have to be a member of the AZA to access the resources. If you work for a zoo or aquarium, they may already have access to this portion of the website despite there being no information on the page. I would recommend looking through the other links I have listed, especially the WAZA site, as they reference AZA manuals quite often.

      Good luck!

  3. I am a zoo addict, and I love your site! I was wondering if you know of any sort of zoo exhibit index – you can look up species and see which zoos have them.
    I could have sworn I came across a site like this a few years ago, but I just can’t find it again!
    Keep up the good work!

  4. We are a new green building company that specializes in artificial rock and water features I would like to be kept abreast of your updates. Our web page is still under development and should be up any day.

    Thank you, Mark

  5. Pingback: Aquarium Stats Resource | Designing Zoos

  6. hi m nezba final year architecture student….i need to refer some books or sites as part of my design project which is zoo architecture….can someone help me???

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