Risk Taxon Advisory Group is not only limited

  Risk of endangerment befalls our wildlife every day and the efforts to prevent it are commonly done by Zoos and Aquariums. These organizations have done numerous efforts in wildlife conservation and educating individuals in their animal programs, such as abiding by AZA regulations, providing wildlife conservation programs, and preserving endangered species. Many Zoos and Aquariums are part of an association named AZA ( Association of Zoos and Aquariums). An organization which manages numerous animal programs that handle wildlife conservation and educating the public within Aquariums and Zoos. More specifically AZA’s Wildlife Conservation and Management Committee (WCMC) manages five hundred of these wildlife programs.(About Animal Programs) The two main programs that the committee manages are the Taxon Advisory Group (TAG), and Species Survival Plan (SSP). The Program TAG is composed of experts that help manage and assist zoo and aquarium-based programs in identifying their animal program goals and research.The Taxon Advisory Group is not only limited to this but they also serve as AZA experts in conservation needs and challenges. (Taxon Advisory Groups) This program understands the importance of international relationships with other zoo and aquarium associations in heated discussions. For example,  ideal population size with zoos and aquariums that do not exceed their animal carrying capacity. (Taxon Advisory Group(TAG) Handbook 24) AZA takes high priority in animal sustainability that is why Species Survival Plan is in place to conserve endangered or threatened wildlife. Species Survival Plan(SSP) was founded in 1981 to manage and protect select populations of endangered species and is led by expert advisors. These experts provide guidelines and manage programs within zoos and aquariums. For example, they “appropriately manage the demographic distribution and long-term sustainability of TAG recommended animal programs within AZA member institutions” ( Species Survival Plan Programs) Without the program steady management of endangered wildlife species, animals like tapirs, tigers, and red pandas would have long been extinct. These two programs are difficult to manage by the WCMC  and that is why the WCMC and many other programs receive advice from a Scientific Advisory Group (SAG) The advisory program SAG also increases the use of science in a zoo and aquarium-based programs and the specialized care for animals in their possession. These programs are only a few in which zoos and aquariums share in their efforts of wildlife conservation but what makes them different is the additional programs they set in place for themselves. The Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science center and the Virginia Zoo are both recognizable tourist attractions in Virginia that share the same AZA regulations and accreditation, except that they provide additional wildlife conservation programs. These programs like any other set them apart from bombarding the public with well-known information and how they uniquely take part in wildlife conservation. The Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center do not solely preach about wildlife conservation but they act on it to their best ability. For example, the Virginia Aquarium has a stranding team composed of staff and volunteers who are on call 24/7 for any marine life stranding up and down the coast of Virginia.( Thomas, personal interview) If the marine animal is pronounced deceased, a necropsy(i.e., autopsy) is done and a number of research papers are written on it. That information is then used for population studies, size management, and the understanding of how the animal moved about in its environment. The Virginia Aquarium also rehabilitates stranded marine life in its rehab center as quickly as possible, to prevent any possibility of it becoming accustomed to captivity. If the marine life is deemed unreleasable by a higher authority, it must be kept in captivity and transferred to an aquarium that can support it. The Virginia Aquarium may focus more on the actions they take in wildlife conservation but they do make apparent to the public on the discoveries that they make and how individuals of all ages can participate in wildlife conservation themselves. They do this with the number of volunteer programs that individuals older than twelve can participate in to help educate guest of all ages. This is accomplished with hands-on demonstrations for younger children, while still giving factual information for the adults. The Virginia Zoo, however, has more programs that are directed to educating youth in wildlife conservation. For example, they have an outreach program which they come to the schools and educate middle schoolers and preschoolers with animal interactions and science lessons.(School Programs) The Virginia Zoo also gives guided tours for children and adults, giving them the chance to view an assortment endangered wildlife that’s not typically found in the U.S, while explaining the importance of protecting and preserving endangered wildlife from the brink of extinction. This is not the only way the Virginia Zoo informs the public on their endangered species, they have a number of volunteer programs for individuals above the ages of eighteen to participate in, These volunteers can position themselves at education carts next to select exhibits and at times they can handle certain wildlife in the zoo to capture the interest of the visitors only after they completed 100 hours of volunteer service.(Zoo Crew) The volunteers are not only there to inform the public they also help or assist the Virginia Zoo administrations. The Virginia Aquarium and the Virginia Zoo do an excellent job in educating the public and practicing what they preach, but one major part of wildlife conservation that is not so apparent is the protection of the environment that coincides with it.Many zoos and aquariums around the world take into consideration the environmental impacts people make on endangered species habitats but they also focus on what they can do to lessen their own impact on their local environment. For example, the Asian elephants in Sumatra are at risk of extinction because of the fragmentation and habitat loss due to rapid development; causing poachers to hunt them excessively for ivory.(Fearn, 188) This happens when the government focuses more on agriculture and urban development than wildlife conservation. For a wildlife conservation organization to be effective in its conservation efforts it must maintain and preserve local and rare ecosystems that may inhabit rare or endangered species as one of their top priorities. The Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center and the Virginia Zoo exemplify this by using their donations and revenue to fund specific environmental projects and research to create less of an impact in their local environment, like investing in repurposable items and getting rid of single-use items, such as plastic bags, cups, and straws. The Virginia Zoo, on the other hand, provides much larger exhibits in which can hold a variety of natural flora that can be found in the species natural habitat. Overall these organizations do their best in adapting to environmental impacts being done around the world and in their community.Zoos and aquariums are met with the similar difficulties and expectations around the world but not every single one is same just because they have the same accreditation.What makes them different is the extra mile they go through in wildlife conservation and their willingness to get the public involved in conservation programs. Their ability to ‘walk the walk’ and “talk the talk” guarantees that in the near future wildlife conservation will become a larger priority in the world and the distinction between zoos and aquariums will be more apparent to the public.

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