From African mountain gorillas to North American black-footed ferrets, zoos and zoo-affiliated individuals are helping ensure the survival of threatened and endangered species worldwide.
Dr. William R. Foster, president-elect of the American Zoo and Aquarium Association and president and director of the Louisville Zoological Garden, highlighted the many education and conservation programs AZA institutions have participated in, during his presentation at the 2002 AVMA Animal Welfare Forum in Milwaukee, Oct. 11.
In recognition of the centennial celebration of mountain gorilla conservation, Dr. Foster applauded the coalition of conservation groups and government agencies that are committed to saving the mountain gorillas. In particular, he noted the courageous efforts of the late Dian Fosse, who was killed while working with gorillas in Rwanda.
Dr. William R. Foster
"She became a power of one," Dr. Foster said.
Dr. Foster also addressed the AZA's role in the Bushmeat Crisis Task Force, a group addressing the slaughter of wildlife—ranging from elephants to chimps to rodents—for human consumption. The sale and consumption of "bushmeat" has the decimated wildlife species, weakened the ecotourism trade some communities rely on, interfered with the lives of indigenous tribes who depend on wildlife to survive, and increased the risk of humans contracting zoonotic diseases such as Ebola and HIV/AIDS.
To combat these problems and help solve the underlying socioeconomic problems that have fueled the trade in bushmeat, the task force has participated in a House subcommittee hearing on the issue and helped build collaborations.
The AZA is also participating in a collaborative effort with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other groups to boost wild populations of the endangered black-footed ferret. The AZA is serving in an advisory role, and some AZA-accredited zoos are helping to breed black-footed ferrets for reintroduction into the wild.
Dr. Foster also mentioned that AZA and AZA-accredited zoos' outreach to foreign zoos such as the Kabul Zoo in Afghanistan and the Havana Zoo in Cuba.