Zoos are not only places to see animals but also vital for wildlife conservation and saving animals from extinction. Learn about the science behind the zoo, how and why we do it, and partnering organizations that help manage the way in which all zoos and aquariums perform.


The Virginia Zoo has been a member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) since 1985. AZA is dedicated to the advancement of zoos and aquariums in the areas of conservation, education, science and recreation. AZA represents more than 240 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. Learn more here.


Since 1935, the goal of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) has been to guide, encourage and support the zoos, aquariums and like‑minded organizations of the world in animal care and welfare, environmental education and global conservation. 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. The membership consists of nearly 400 institutions and organizations around the world, and this number continues to grow. Learn more here.

AZA Safe Programs

The Association of Zoos and Aquariums Saving Animals From Extinction (AZA SAFE) program focuses the collective expertise within our accredited zoos and aquariums community and leverages their massive audiences to save species. In 2015, the AZA-accredited zoo and aquarium community identified 10 SAFE Signature Species on which to focus planning and conservation action, as well as a plan to include conservation programs at zoos and aquariums under the SAFE umbrella. The Virginia Zoo is a member of the Founders Circle of SAFE donors, a group of AZA member zoos and aquariums with the visionary leadership to support program infrastructure and the planning, science, and staffing that will ensure the future of this movement. You can learn more about the program at aza.org/aza-safe.


SSPs look at breeding animals in captivity to create a healthy safety net should populations in the wild diminish or go extinct. In order to accomplish this, scientists from Taxon Advisory Groups (TAG), under the supervision of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), look at the genetic diversity of a species as well as compatibility of personalities, age and experience to determine which animals would breed well together.

There are currently nearly 500 SSP Programs, each managed by their corresponding TAGs within AZA. Each is responsible for developing a comprehensive population Studbook and a Breeding and Transfer Plan which identifies population management goals and recommendations to ensure the sustainability of a healthy, genetically diverse, and demographically varied AZA population of a species.