No matter where you work, there are probably some acronyms and terminology that you use that people outside of your field would not understand. If you’re a teacher, things like IEP, BOE, 504, RTI
BIP, PBIS, SEL, FERPA, SLD, LRE, MDR, ESL/ELL, TKES/LKES maybe familiar acronyms, but I know only what two of them mean. SEL? I hope that one is Spicy Enchilada Lunch. Sometimes if you’re a fan of something you may know all the acronyms for whatever it is. Baseball fans know RBIs, HR, BB, WAR, OBP, OPS, ERA, and MLB. The government is full of these DOE, DOE, NEA, EPA, NGO, CIA, FBI, POTUS, VPOTUS, NSA, ATF, INS, BLM, BIA, and more.
The world of zoos is no exception, and sometimes when people use these acronyms, if you’re unfamiliar with them, you can become lost quickly. One of the acronyms we use the most in the zoo world is AZA.
AZA is the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. “The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of zoos and aquariums in the areas of conservation, education, science, and recreation.” There are over 200 AZA sites in the world, with most in the United States. Two right here in Georgia are the Georgia Aquarium and the other being us right here at Zoo Atlanta! The AZA sets the highest standards for animal care and welfare. “Less than 10% of the 2,800 wildlife exhibitors licensed by the United States Department of Agriculture under the Animal Welfare Act meet the more comprehensive standards of AZA accreditation.”
The AZA doesn’t just focus on animal care, though. They also focus on conservation, which is where another important acronym comes in, the SSP. At Zoo Atlanta guests will ask if any particular animal will be having any offspring soon. Baby animals are cute. People love them. They really want to see them when they come to the Zoo, but the AZA has a hand in planning (or at least setting up the optimum conditions) for baby animals at zoos! Many species at Zoo Atlanta are part of what is called the Species Survival Plan®, or SSP. The SSP for individual species looks at genetics in zoos as well as animal temperaments, and tries to match favorable pairs of animals at AZA institutions that can support a breeding program. Sometimes this also means that AZA institutions may be holding facilities for animals that may not be recommended to breed because their genes are already well-represented in the population in human care. Other reasons could be advanced age or unsuccessful breeding attempts in the past.
AZA accredited zoos and aquariums are not inspected and certified just once. To keep our accreditation status, every five years we must go through a thorough inspection to get recertified. We happily put in the hours of work to ensure we are prepared for inspections because it is worth it to be a part of the AZA, so that people will know that when it comes to animal care, we are part of a small select group of zoos. We are in the upper echelon. The AZA is the major leagues, and we are glad to be members.
Public Programs Coordinator