Why AZA accreditation matters

At the Zoo, we pride ourselves in creating connections to wild species and wild places for our guests and members. Creating a meaningful, engaging guest experience that is relatable to people from diverse backgrounds and cultures is a key component of our work.

We educate the public about wildlife, wild places and engage them in saving species through our education programming. Finally, we fund effective conservation locally and globally that brings about positive outcomes for wildlife.

Zoos have come a long way from the days as a mere collection of animals. They have grown into dynamic organizations with crucial missions, striving to preserve the species and nature of our planet.

Part of this devotion links back to why our accreditation with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) matters. The AZA is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of zoos and aquariums in the areas of conservation, education, science, and recreation. AZA represents more than 235 facilities in the United States and overseas, which collectively draw more than 200 million visitors every year. AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums meet the highest standards in animal care and welfare and provide a fun, safe, and educational family experience. In addition, they dedicate millions of dollars annually to support scientific research, conservation, and education programs.

AZA is the independent accrediting organization for the best zoos and the best aquariums in America and the world, assuring the public that when they visit an AZA-accredited facility, it meets the highest standards for animal care and welfare. Less than 10 percent of the 2,800 wildlife exhibitors licensed by the United States Department of Agriculture under the Animal Welfare Act meet the more comprehensive standards of AZA accreditation. The highly trained professionals at AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums provide excellent care for more than 800,000 animals, making them the leading experts in animal care and welfare.

Conservation is a priority for AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums and a key part of their mission to save species from extinction. Every year, AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums spend $230 million on field conservation alone, supporting projects benefitting more than 800 species in 130 countries. To date, the AZA Conservation Grants Fund has provided $7.7 million in support for 400+ projects worldwide.

AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums are also leaders in the protection of threatened and endangered species. Through AZA SAFE: Saving Animals from Extinction, the entire AZA-accredited zoo and aquarium community is focusing our conservation science, wildlife expertise, and outreach to millions of annual visitors on saving species in the wild. The AZA Species Survival Plan® (SSP) program is a cooperative animal management, breeding, and conservation effort that works to ensure genetically diverse, self-sustaining populations of more than 500 species of animals.

Our Zoo is very active in conservation programs and fully participates with other zoos around the world in nearly 30 international Species Survival Plans (SSP) for critically endangered species. Three of these SSP animals, the Guam Rail, Arabian Oryx, and Golden Lion Tamarin, have been successfully reintroduced into the wild and represent living proof of our long-term commitment of reintroduction to strengthen and supplement wild populations of endangered and threatened wildlife.

The Baton Rouge Zoo is proud to have been the first zoo in Louisiana to become an AZA-accredited institution. In 2018, that distinction was lost due to a lack of investment in infrastructure over the Zoo’s 50-year history. That jolt pushed us to do better and make a change. As such, much of the transformation you see throughout the Zoo is part of a global effort to make the necessary upgrades to regain our Zoo’s accreditation and once again be included in the top 10% of zoos in the country. We believe in the AZA mission and we know that we will be back in that elite society soon. The Zoo plans to apply for accreditation in 2023, with a decision being announced in the Spring of 2024. We hope that when the time comes for us to celebrate this accomplishment, our fans will better understand the impact we are making and the importance of this distinction. Zoos really do make a difference!