Senate pays tribute to US zoos and aquariums

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The nation's AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums are key supporters of species conservation projects worldwide, according to a Senate resolution. (Photo by R. Scott Nolen)

Partisan agendas were briefly set aside this past November when a resolution honoring the nation's zoos and aquariums passed the Senate by unanimous consent.

Ben Nelson of Nebraska introduced Senate Resolution 132, with support from 28 co-sponsors, to highlight the many contributions of the more than 220 institutions accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

The resolution the Senate passed Nov. 8 noted AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums support some 142,000 jobs nationwide and generate more than $15 billion annually. They train more than 400,000 teachers, support science curricula with teaching materials and hands-on opportunities, and host an estimated 12 million students on field trips each year.

Over the past five years, these institutions have provided an estimated $90 million annually for thousands of conservation and research projects in more than 100 countries, the resolution stated. Moreover, many federal agencies rely on AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums as partners in rescue, rehabilitation, confiscation, and reintroduction efforts for distressed, threatened, and endangered animal species.

Senate Resolution 132 commended employees and volunteers at each zoo and aquarium for their hard work and dedication, and recommended people visit their local AZA institution to take advantage of the educational opportunities it offers. The resolution also urged continued support for accredited zoos and aquariums and the conservation, education, and recreation programs they provide.

"In this time of partisanship, there are still matters that can unite individuals of all political leanings," the AZA said in a statement. "This includes the Senate's support for AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums in their role as job generators; as economic engines in their states and communities; as educational facilities for millions of students; and as critical players in global wildlife conservation."

AVMA President René A. Carlson said the resolution also brings attention to the important roles veterinarians at zoos and aquariums play in animal health and safeguarding of endangered species. "The nation's zoos and aquariums are not just cultural institutions enjoyed by adults and children," Dr. Carlson said. "They also provide this nation with invaluable global education, conservation, and research efforts.

"The AVMA is hopeful this recognition will encourage Congress to continue to provide proper funding for educational and conservation programs in the future."