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AZA Conference – Zoos and Aquariums

Over the last month I attended both the AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums) and the ASTC (Association of Science and Technology Centers) conferences. While the content and the attendees were different, there were noticeably similar themes and consistent trends.

AZA was held at Disney World Orlando; Disney Animal Kingdom was hosting. Animal Kingdom, an accredited zoo and also one of the leaders in customer service and conservation, was the host institution. The founding director of Animal Kingdom, Beth Stevens, now heads Disney corporate’s CSR efforts that are concentrating on reducing the carbon footprint across all lines of business (including cruise lines) and funding major conservation NGOs to help preserve natural resources. The AZA conference was well-attended (it seemed over subscribed) and all of the delegates were entertained one evening at the for profit aquarium, Sea World.

The zoo and aquarium business was once concerned about the dynamic tension between entertainment and education, (there was even a term for the phenomenon – “edutainment”). Zoos and aquariums are still dependent on entrance fees, membership, and ancillary income, – more so than any other collection based nonprofit organization – and constantly under attack by animal rights groups. Today, zoos and aquariums are leading the way in species conservation, and also through their LEEDs buildings and exhibits and through participating in conservation projects abroad. AZA member institutions pledged to contribute 3% of their budgets to conservation activities in developing countries.

James Abruzzo, Consultant, Consulting, Executive Search, Nonprofit Compensation, Expert Witness, ASTC Conference

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