Conservation Influencers

Association of Zoos and Aquariums


Founded in 1924, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) is an independent accrediting organization for the world’s zoos and aquariums. Its rigorous standards are dedicated to supporting research and conservation of, and education about, in situ and ex situ populations of animal species. In 2020, just 217 zoos and aquariums in the USA met AZA’s standards for accreditation, out of the 2,800 wildlife exhibitors licensed by the United States Department of Agriculture under the Animal Welfare Act. Outside of the USA, a further 23 zoos and aquariums are accredited.

At CITES’ CoP-18, AZA executive vice president Craig Hoover criticized NGO campaigners and Parties for arguing that ‘adding more species to CITES’ appendices is something to celebrate’. Hoover also observed that at CoP-18, anti-zoo sentiment was stronger than at any of the previous eight CoPs that he had attended. 

The Association of Zoos and Aquariums did not take a position on the listing of giraffes in Appendix II at CITES’ CoP-18. However Hoover commented that while the giraffe population is declining ‘it appears to be driven by poaching rather than international trade’. Responding to that CoP’s decision to limit the exceptions for the export of live elephants from Botswana and Zimbabwe to countries outside Africa, Hoover said that this sets a ‘terrible precedent for applying restrictions on the movement of Appendix-II animals to other species’. AZA also expressed concerns about how CITES’ CoPs tend to focus on charismatic or high-profile animals to the detriment of ‘lesser-known species such as songbirds’. 


Dan Ashe, President and CEO, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, former director of USFWS. Craig Hoover, Executive Vice President, former chief of the USFWS Division of International Conservation.


Board of Directors, chaired by Bert Castro, President / CEO
Phoenix Zoo, Arizona Center for Nature Conservation (note: Chair-elect is Brian Davis, Ph.D., President and CEO Georgia Aquarium).


According to its 2019 annual report, AZA had revenues of USD12,337,959 in 2019 and expenditure of USD10,729,093.

About the directory

Conservation Influencers is a searchable directory of the animal activist, environmental and ecological lobby. It examines the history, mission, methodology and reputation of NGOs to assess their impact on the global conservation cause.


Wildlife Conservation Society

In 1906, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) put an African man on display in Bronx Zoo’s Monkey House. In 1918, one of WCS’s founding fathers, Madison Grant, published Passing of the Great Race, which Adolf Hitler referred to as his ‘Bible’. Another leading creator and early leader of WCS, Henry Fairfield Osborn Sr, was also a founder of the American Eugenics Society. His son headed WCS from 1940 to 1968, overseeing a series of major initiatives in Africa. There, WCS became one of the architects of the prohibition movement, which put wildlife for consumptive use and vast regions of land out of bounds to humanity. In 2020, WCS distanced itself in public from the racist views of Grant and Henry Fairfield Osborn Sr. But it has yet to issue a critical account of the legacy of Fairfield Osborn Jr, even though he led WCS into the modern era while sharing similar politically-inspired ecological goals to his father and Grant. WCS devotes considerable financial resources to influencing outcomes at CITES. WCS’s CEO reportedly earns USD$1,320,978.