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Zoo Joins Effort To End Extinction

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (May 15, 2015) – Honoring the 10th anniversary of Endangered Species Day, the Little Rock Zoo and the 226 other zoological organizations across North America accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), proudly announced today a collective commitment to a new efforts focused on saving the world’s most vulnerable species from extinction and restoring them to healthy populations in the wild.    The initiative – SAFE: Saving Animals From Extinction (SAFE) – strategically aligns conservation researchers, scientists and rescue and rehabilitation organizations and resources from around the world with the collective 180 million annual visitors to zoos and aquariums to help protect habitats, eliminate threats and restore populations to sustainable levels in the wild.   

Working intensively over the past two years, leadership within the AZA-accredited zoo and aquarium community have worked to identify more than 100 species that are facing the greatest threats, are critical to maintaining overall ecosystems, and allow zoos and aquariums to contribute the unique conservation and scientific knowledge available to helping save them.  Meetings with scientists and stakeholders from around the world helped to identify factors threatening species, influence the development of new Conservation Action Plans, and confirm the further need to engage the public on the importance of saving these animals.  

In 2015, SAFE will focus on ten inaugural species from that list, including: African penguin, cheetah, sharks and rays, Western pond turtle, sea turtles, vaquita, Asian elephants, black rhinoceros, gorilla and whooping crane – many of which the Little Rock Zoo are already involved in conservation initiatives with and that local residents can learn about and see in-person by visiting one of them at the Zoo.    Most recently, the Little Rock Zoo announced the hatching of two African Penguin chicks and continues to partner with the South African conservation organization SANCCOB, a facility on the forefront of saving African Penguins and threatened seabirds through rescue and rehabilitation efforts and public education. The Zoo’s new Laura P. Nichols Penguin Pointe exhibit was designed to mimic the shoreline of South Africa and its building is a replica of a research facility similar to the SANCCOB facility. Zoo education programs on penguins focus on their need for help and privately raised dollars from penguin paintings and other materials are donated to SANCCOB efforts.  

“Zoos and Aquariums have long been involved in conservation efforts but this is the first time that this work will be coordinated by an accredited organization that can activate more than 180 million visitors into caring and sharing about saving endangered species,” said Mike Blakely, Director of the Little Rock Zoo. “Conservation and learning at AZA accredited zoos and aquariums, along with efforts conducted by state and federal agencies, has been critical in the survival of many endangered animals in the past such as the California Condor and the black-footed ferret and zoos and aquariums can make an even larger impact on saving wild species if we coordinate these efforts together through the AZA.”  

As one of the largest family attractions in Arkansas, the Little Rock Zoo’s more than 300,000 annual guests will have the opportunity to receive more information about the SAFE endangered species program and how they can help. In the coming months the Little Rock Zoo will place the SAFE logo on signage at animal exhibits where the Zoo is coordinating with SAFE to help a particular species. Education programs will also reflect conservation programing about SAFE and how the public can act to help the species listed in the AZA SAFE program.  

The public can act now to support the AZA SAFE program by downloading the TailsUp! App, a fun smartphone game available for download at the App Store and on Google Play. This animal themed game is appropriate for kids and adults alike.  

Alex and Ani penguin bracelets are available for sale at www.AlexandAni.com and 20% of the proceeds will be donated to AZA SAFE.   

For more information about AZA SAFE visit www.AZASavingSpecies.org.  

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About AZA SAFE: Saving Animals From Extinction   AZA SAFE: Saving Animals From Extinction combines the power of zoo & aquarium visitors with the resources and collective expertise of zoos and aquariums accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums and partners to save animals from extinction. Together we are working on saving the most vulnerable wildlife species from extinction and protecting them for future generations. To learn more, visit www.AZAsavingspecies.org.

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