Zoos have varied roles in society, with over 22 million people visiting zoos and aquaria in the Australasian region each year, including 19.9m in Australia and 2.1m in New Zealand. Visitors included around 16m local and/or domestic visitors and an estimated 5 million international guests.
The Association directly supports its members by overseeing over 115 breeding programs for species, many of which are threatened. Overall, its members care for 342 species of wildlife that are classified as threatened in the wild, and an overall total of 2,440 species.
Zoos take a holistic approach to conservation breeding of various species, 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 Devils, Tuatara, Regent Honeyeaters and Corroboree Frogs. In addition some species have been returned to the wild from zoos such as Green and Golden Bell Frogs, Western Swamp Tortoise, NZ Shore Plover and the Greater stick-nest rat. These complex programs manage at-risk species for their genetic and demographic health over significant timeframes. At a global level 27 species are extinct in the wild but maintained by zoos.
- Zoos and aquariums in this region participate in an estimated 629 conservation programs worldwide. 51% of these are in Australia, 9% in New Zealand and 40% internationally. ZAA members fund a total of $20.6m per annum for conservation programs, as well as over $3m of in-kind support and expertise.
- Zoo wildlife hospitals treat over 14,000 cases of injured and orphaned wildlife each year.
- Over 940,000 students are hosted by regional zoos and aquariums each year, inspiring the conservationists, researchers and scientists of tomorrow to make genuine and lasting connections to wildlife.
- Zoos provide vital biosecurity surveillance of disease in native wildlife.
- Zoos and Aquariums are also uniquely placed to influence their 22m+ visitors each year to change behaviours towards wildlife and the environment. As a result of visiting zoos, over 92% of visitors stated they had learned about threats faced by animals in the wild, and over 89% planned to make a conscious effort to do things to help conserve the environment.