‘United for conservation’ - welcoming WAZA to the IUCN Conservation Centre

16 August 2010 | Article

IUCN Member Organization WAZA, the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums, is the voice of a worldwide community of zoos and aquariums and a catalyst for their joint conservation action.

More than 700 million visitors pass through the gates of zoos and aquariums that are united by the WAZA network each year. WAZA has about 1,300 member institutions across the world including leading zoos and aquariums, regional and national associations of zoos and aquariums and affiliate organisations, such as zoo veterinarians or zoo educators from around the world.

Through their living collections, zoos and aquariums make an important contribution to conservation-directed research. WAZA provides a unique resource for studying representative populations of a diverse range of the world’s wildlife. Zoos and aquariums offer a place for researchers and the public to meet and communicate, a platform for explaining research results and the implications for conservation action.

After the International Union of Directors of Zoological Gardens (IUDZG), founded in 1935 in Basel, Switzerland, ceased to exist during the Second World War, a new IUDZG was founded in Rotterdam in 1946 by a group of zoo directors from allied or neutral countries. In 2000, IUDZG was renamed as WAZA to reflect a more modern institution working together at a global level, tackling common issues, sharing information and knowledge, and representing its community in other international bodies.

WAZA has a global mandate, enabling zoos and aquariums to be represented internationally through one voice. Focused on in situ conservation projects, WAZA has over 180 conservation projects around the world. It has produced the only coordinated global conservation strategy for aquariums, launched in 2009, and WAZA’s global conservation strategy for zoos has been in place since 2005.

The WAZA Executive Office is situated in the heart of IUCN’s newly-built Conservation Centre in Gland, Switzerland. We spoke to WAZA Executive Director, Dr Gerald Dick.

What are the latest developments in zoos and aquarium activities?
Zoos and aquariums are heavily engaged in conservation, be it ex situ (‘off-site’ conservation) or in situ (‘on site’ conservation or conserving a species in its natural habitat) and spend about US$ 350 million on it. The main focus of WAZA members is on education, conservation and research. WAZA has established a Conservation Strategy as well as a recently-launched Aquarium Strategy on Conservation and Sustainability.

Can you tell us about zoos and aquarium conservation programmes?
Conservation is one of the main goals of WAZA and its members. Our members are engaged in breeding programmes as well as in field conservation projects. The link between ex situ and in situ projects is very important, WAZA administers a list of international conservation projects, currently over 180. All those projects are introduced on the WAZA website: www.waza.org

How does WAZA work with IUCN, in particular on species conservation?
WAZA provides financial support to IUCN’s Species Survival Commission and to its Specialist Groups, such as the South American Camelid Specialist Group. We promote the use of the newly-developed IUCN Red List of Threatened Species branding and many zoos and aquariums have already made use of it. WAZA has published a book on ‘The Future of Wildlife’ to mark the International Year of Biodiversity, with contributions from partners including IUCN. WAZA also supports international endeavours for amphibian conservation and is partnering with IUCN and its Conservation Breeding Specialist Group in the ‘Amphibian Ark’.

How do zoos contribute to the conservation of native species and habitat protection?
Zoos are often involved in local conservation activities together with NGOs or local communities. Some examples include the establishment of amphibian habitats and related education programmes. Breeding programmes help to support small populations of threatened animals, a notable example is the conservation of the Californian condor.

Can you tell us more about zoos, aquariums and climate change?
Climate change issues are becoming more and more important for the zoo and aquarium community. Last year a joint task force was set up between WAZA and the Conservation Breeding specialist Group of the IUCN Species Survival Commission to develop a more concrete strategy for our community. Last year, for the Copenhagen climate change summit, a petition of leading zoo and aquarium management worldwide was handed to the UN Secretary General, calling for a limit of CO2 emissions to a level of less than 350ppm. Concrete measures in terms of sustainability (energy use, recycling, waste management, procurement etc.) are being taken by many members already.

How is cohabitation with IUCN in the Conservation Centre going?
Since May this year the WAZA Executive Office has been housed in the IUCN Conservation Centre and we all are very happy about the wonderful working environment and the many synergies which can be used in terms of interaction, cooperation and office management. A special thanks goes to Julia, IUCN Director General, for her warm welcome and continuous support.

For more information contact:
Ulrike Fox, responsible for Marketing & Communication at WAZA
ulrike.fox@waza.org - phone +41 (0)22 999 07 90