A recent edition of Connect, a publication by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) as "a forum for promoting AZA's mission," was at pains to highlight their members' support for tiger conservation programs.
Apparently, in 2013, 47 AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums supported tiger conservation. This figure accounts for approximately 21 percent of their 228 accredited zoos and aquariums. Sounds reasonable enough, right?
How did they support tiger conservation? What did they actually support? I wonder.
According to the AZA, in 2013, "member facilities" spent $572,908 on tiger conservation.
Firstly, which are these "member facilities?" Are they simply the 47 AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums? Or, do they include the non-accredited animal-keeping member facilities, such as the International Animal Exchange, Inc. (an animal transport company) or Natural Encounters, Inc. (that provides expertise on animal training and shows)?
Moreover, participating in conservation can include a variety of activities. It could include funding of field conservation in the wild (in situ conservation). On the other hand, it might simply be participating in captive breeding programs, or even contributing to the costs of maintaining the animal collection. Does this relatively small sum, equivalent to less than $2,000 per AZA-accredited zoo, in some cases include the costs of keeping tigers in zoos under the term "conservation" (conserving the species by housing an individual)? And, if so, does that really justify claims about conservation participation by AZA zoos?