Zoos have a varied role in society, with over 16 million people visiting zoos and aquaria each year in the Australasian region, of which around 12.5 are Australians and New Zealanders and the remainder overseas visitors. The Association directly supports its members by overseeing over 100 conservation breeding programs for species, many of which are threatened.
Zoos take a holistic approach to conservation breeding incorporating their specialist skills in breeding and husbandry in conjunction with visitor education, scientific research and support for field conservation.
Conservation activities of zoos and aquariums include:
- Australia and New Zealand are required to ‘conserve components of biological diversity’ under their commitments to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) 1992. Zoos support Australasian wildlife conservation by providing ‘insurance populations’ for species such as Tasmanian Devil, Tuatara, Regent Honeyeater and Corroboree Frog. In addition some species have been returned to the wild from zoos such as the Western Swamp Tortoise, NZ Shore Plover and the Greater stick-nest rat.
- Zoos contribute over $2m p/a in funding to universities and research institutions, and help meet one of Australia’s commitments to the CBD 1992 by providing facilities for conservation research.
- Zoos and Aquariums across Australasia hold over 200 native species and over 150 exotic species included on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of endangered species. At a global level 27 species are extinct in the wild but maintained by zoos.
- Zoos have fundraised and contributed millions of dollars to support in-situ conservation projects within the Australasian region and overseas.
- Zoo wildlife hospitals treat over 14,000 cases of injured and orphaned wildlife each year.
- Zoos provide vital biosecurity surveillance of disease in native wildlife.
- Zoos and Aquariums are uniquely placed to influence their 16m+ visitors each year to change behaviour towards the environment. As a result of visiting zoos, 90% of visitors plan to make a conscious effort to do things to help conserve the environment.
- Over 600,000 school students conduct curriculum studies at zoos each year.