San Diego, California - The U.S. Wildlife Trafficking Alliance (USWTA) announced it will become a program of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), as part of an effort to continue its important work to prevent wildlife trafficking worldwide. San Diego Zoo Global, along with several other conservation-based accredited zoos, has pledged to support this effort through action, leadership and resources.

“Wildlife trafficking is a global epidemic and is driving some of the world’s most beloved animals to the brink of extinction,” said Dan Ashe, president and CEO of AZA. “AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums are world leaders in saving animals from extinction, and this strategic alignment with travel, media and consumer products business leaders, as well as conservation NGOs, will create and sustain powerful momentum.”

Beginning in 2015, the USWTA assembled an impressive coalition of corporate and nonprofit member organizations, all working together to raise awareness about the devastating impact that wildlife trafficking has on wild animals and to help stop consumer demand for endangered species products.

“As an AZA-accredited zoo, San Diego Zoo Global is pleased to support the efforts of AZA and the USWTA,” stated Dwight Scott, director of the San Diego Zoo. “San Diego Zoo Global is committed to reducing wildlife trafficking and the demand for wildlife products. We recognize the far-reaching and devastating impact illegal and unsustainable trafficking has on plant and animal species. Working together can only benefit our efforts to end this tragic epidemic.”

Sadly, wildlife trafficking often hits very close to home. A recent example: In August 2017, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park took in a Bengal tiger cub that had been confiscated by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers during a vehicle inspection at the U.S./Mexico port of entry near San Diego. “The San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park are safe havens for plants and animals rescued from illegal trade—and through our parks and the work of the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, we actively participate in education and outreach efforts to reduce the demand for wildlife products from species decimated by wildlife trafficking,” added Scott.

An unprecedented increase in global demand for exotic wildlife products has triggered an industrial-scale killing spree of endangered species around the world. Wildlife trafficking has quickly become a multibillion-dollar criminal industry, and it now ranks as the fourth largest transnational crime. Experts agree that if we don’t act quickly, illegal trafficking will wipe out many endangered species in our lifetime—not only posing a danger to wild animals, but also to the environment and national security.

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 eight 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.

About the U.S. Wildlife Trafficking Alliance: The United States Wildlife Trafficking Alliance is a coalition of nonprofit organizations, companies, foundations and media interests working closely with the U.S. government to combat wildlife trafficking by raising public awareness, reducing consumer demand for wildlife and wildlife products, and mobilizing companies to adopt best practices stop wildlife trafficking.

About San Diego Zoo Global: Bringing species back from the brink of extinction is the goal of San Diego Zoo Global. As a leader in conservation, the work of San Diego Zoo Global includes on-site wildlife conservation efforts (representing both plants and animals) at the San Diego Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, as well as international field programs on six continents. The work of these entities is inspiring children through the San Diego Zoo Kids network, reaching out through the internet and in children’s hospitals nationwide. The work of San Diego Zoo Global is made possible by the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy and is supported in part by the Foundation of San Diego Zoo Global.