Thursday, March 24
This past week I had the opportunity to travel to Omaha, Nebraska for not one, but two professional conferences! The joint Taxon Advisory Group (TAG) Chair Meeting was an opportunity for experts from U.S. members of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and their counterparts from around the world to come together and talk about conservation. There were TAG chairs from EAZA (the European Association of Zoos and Aquariums), from SEAZA (the Southeast Asia Zoological Association), from AAZ (the Association for Australian Zoos and Aquariums), from ALPSO (Latin American Zoological Association), from JAZA (the Japanese Association for Zoos and Aquariums), from WAZA (the World Association for Zoos and Aquariums) and others! There are so many people around the planet that dedicate their lives to conserving species.
What is a TAG chair? That’s a great question. TAG stands for Taxon Advisory Group, and the chair is the person that heads up that group of experts. For example, I am the chair of the Rodent, Insectivore and Lagomorph TAG. So when anyone in an AZA accredited zoo has a question about how they can exhibit any species of animal that falls into those taxa, they ask me. So if you want to exhibit a beaver, I’m your woman. I and my Steering Committee can advise holders of these species on how best to care for them, how best to breed them, and who is studying them in the wild.
One of the great things zoos can do is help researchers who are studying animals out in the wild. For example, zoo biologists can learn about hormone cycles of zoo animals, and wildlife biologists can use that information to know what the right time of year is to look for pregnant females or babies out in the field.
The other meeting I had the opportunity to attend was the AZA mid-year meeting. This meeting is all about keepers and curators from zoos across the AZA to talk about best practices. We take this opportunity to learn from each other. There was a whole-day workshop dedicated to the care of parrots in zoos! Besides catching up with old friends, I love going to the mid-year meeting because it means I get to visit a zoo I probably haven’t been to before. The Henry Doorly Zoo was amazing! There was a new species around every corner! But, no matter how awesome it was to visit that zoo, I am happy to be home and back with my program animals at Zoo Atlanta. I definitely missed Sequoyah, the bald eagle, while I was gone!
Assistant Curator of Birds and Program Animals