Story | 07 Dec, 2023

Mobilising action for nature

The World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) discusses its work and long association with IUCN

WAZA is the global alliance of regional associations, national federations, zoos and aquariums dedicated to the care and conservation of animals and their habitats around the world.

With 400 members, WAZA promotes cooperation between leading zoos, aquariums, national and regional associations, as well as with leading wildlife experts, academies and universities. We provide support for species-conservation management and husbandry of animals in human care, while encouraging the highest standards in member institutions.

As one of the founding Members of IUCN, our Association believes in IUCN’s vision of “a just world that values and conserves nature”. The value of IUCN, for us, lies in helping us work together with those with common goals. That is what allows us to have our own functional ecosystem to achieve the vision instead of acting in isolation as fragmented actors.

From our perspective, perhaps even more critical than the loss of biodiversity itself, is the failure of our societies to prioritise nature.

We see an increasing gap in the understanding of how intrinsically connected wildlife and our civilisation are. Those in urban cities do not necessarily understand that through consumption of technology or food, their lifestyles are connected to the loss of habitats for charismatic species on the other side of the world. Zoos and aquariums have an important role in reaching citizens who may not be accessible to other conservation organisations.

We are becoming more proficient at mobilising visitors and other stakeholders to act for nature’s conservation, and particularly animal species. We are exploring the social science behind it, and have moved from the old paradigm of ‘creating awareness’ to making people care and act for wildlife. It is always enlightening to see some of the collaborations that result when organisations that have not worked with our community before engage with us.

For the past few years, WAZA has been working towards implementing the WAZA 2023 Animal Welfare Goal, which aims to establish a global benchmark for animal welfare evaluation processes worldwide.

WAZA is also developing a parallel goal known as the WAZA Population Management Goal, which aims to ensure that all regions represented within WAZA have population management frameworks that adhere to a consistent set of requirements. Together with the IUCN Species Survival Commission, WAZA is a co-founder of Reverse the Red, a global movement that ignites strategic cooperation and action to ensure the survival of wild species and ecosystems. Our partnership officially began in 2021 and it continues to evolve.

The network that we have been able to access through IUCN has increased the impact of the work we do.

WAZA has been closely collaborating with the IUCN Species Survival Commission for at least a decade. Together with the IUCN Specialist Groups, the commission has been fundamental to the work our association does. The Conservation Planning Specialist Group (CPSG) is probably the specialist group we have worked with the longest (since the 1980s). In the last decade, our collaborations have expanded to work with taxon-specific specialist groups. Additionally, 14 WAZA members have become Centers for Species Survival, which support the IUCN Species Survival Commission network and its efforts, often at the national level, identifying priority gaps and ensuring that efforts, resources and experts are effectively connected to maximise conservation species impact.