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Woodland Park Zoo honored with awards from the Association of Zoos & Aquariums

Posted by Elizabeth Bacher, Communications

Woodland Park Zoo was honored with awards from the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) at its annual conference which was held virtually in 2020. The areas of achievement include Volunteer Engagement, Diversity, Species Survival Plan Sustainability and Research. We're very proud of each of these honors and are excited to tell you a little more about the work behind them!

Our Volunteer Inclusion Program received two awards this year: Top Honors in the Volunteer Engagement Award category, which recognizes achievement by an AZA member institution in volunteer program development, and a Significant Achievement Award in the Angela Peterson Excellence in Diversity Award category, which recognizes significant achievement in the workforce and audience diversity by an AZA member institution.

Photo: John Loughlin/Woodland Park Zoo

The Woodland Park Zoo Volunteer Inclusion Program supports individuals with disabilities who are interested in volunteering at the zoo and was created in the belief that including people with all abilities helps us be a better conservation organization.

Woodland Park Zoo also received AZA’s Species Survival Plan Sustainability Award, which recognizes efforts that have had a real impact on saving endangered populations of a species in human care, for the blue-crowned laughingthrush (Garrulax courtoisi). This bird is a critically endangered babbler native to China and is one of the rarest bird species in the care of AZA member facilities. Congratulations to our bird curator, Mark Myers, who serves as the Species Survival Plan Coordinator for this program.

A blue-crowned laughingthrush. Photo courtesy of Disney's Animal Kingdom

We currently have one pair of blue-crowned laughingthrushes living behind the scenes at the Tropical Rain Forest. As a sensitive species that is critically endangered, we’re happy to provide them with a quiet and secluded space where they can hopefully breed to continue sustaining the population of this critically endangered species.

This year also saw the establishment of a new award, the Research Award. This award recognizes exceptional efforts by AZA Accredited, Related Facility, or Conservation Partner members to advance the body of scientific knowledge as it relates to excellent welfare for the animals in our care, understanding biological principles, advancing field conservation efforts, and maximizing our impact on visitors.

Woodland Park Zoo’s Urban Carnivore Program is one of 12 zoo partners in the Urban Wildlife Information Network, which received a Significant Achievement in this new Research Award category.

“In these unprecedented times, I am glad we could convene and honor the outstanding achievements of the distinguished leaders in our profession,” said AZA President and CEO, Dan Ashe. “Their contributions and mentorship have inspired all within the accredited zoo and aquarium community to advance AZA’s mission of creating a world where all people respect, value, and conserve wildlife and wild places.”

We are honored to have received these awards and we look forward to working with our colleagues in AZA to continue to save species and protect habitats!

About AZA

Founded in 1924, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of zoos and aquariums in the areas of conservation, animal welfare, education, science, and recreation. AZA is the accrediting body for the top zoos and aquariums in the United States and 12 other countries. Look for the AZA accreditation logo whenever you visit a zoo or aquarium as your assurance that you are supporting a facility dedicated to providing excellent care for animals, a great experience for you, and a better future for all living things. The AZA is a leader in saving species and your link to helping animals all over the world. To learn more, visit