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AZA Zoos Unite to Fight Zoonotic Disease Risk

Posted By : The Animal Facts Editorial Team

Date: January 15, 2021 10:00 am

zoonotic diseases zaa

A  Yellow-napped Amazon parrot at the Oakland Zoo which was rescued from the illegal wildlife trade

Photo Credit: Steven Gotz/ Oakland Zoo

Oakland Zoo and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums have launched a new initiative, "Reduce the Risk: A Crisis in Human and Animal Health." This is aimed at reducing the risk of zoonotic diseases which can affect humans and animals.

Zoonotic diseases are those which can be transferred from animals to people. More specifically they are those that exist in animals but can jump to humans. As many as two-thirds of all emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic.

“The current COVID-19 crisis was knowable, predictable, and preventable. AZA members are experts in safely and effectively importing, exporting, and transporting animals, and have expertise in preventative veterinary care, including quarantine, and measures to enhance resiliency to animal disease and pathogens,” said Dan Ashe, President, and CEO of AZA. “This expertise can provide critical input into national and global policy conversations around wildlife trade and inform the public that zoos and aquariums are safe places to visit.”

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A common basilisk on the left and a black tree monitor on the right. Both of these have confiscated from the illegal pet trade

Photo Credit: Oakland Zoo

Reduce the risk will build upon current AZA initiatives, connects efforts across the community and creates a comprehensive framework through which they can take collective action.

The initiative was developed with input from wildlife trade and animal health experts from inside and outside of the AZA community and will utilize four strategic pillars:


  1. Strengthen national policy on wildlife trade.
  2. Advocate for stronger wildlife trade policies at the global level.
  3. Increase AZA programs and efforts that support the Reduce the Risk initiative goal.
  4. Educate and mobilize the public to help us reduce the risk of zoonotic diseases.

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“As we continue to navigate the devastating human loss and economic impact caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and as we chart a course toward recovery, we must acknowledge the origin of our current and tragic circumstance: the spillover and transmission of a zoonotic disease, quite possibly in a live animal market in Wuhan, China. But even more important than acknowledging this, we must act now to avert another similar event. Unless we learn these lessons and take steps to reduce related risks, the same will be true of the next pandemic and the next” said Dan Ashe, President, and CEO of AZA.

Over 50% of the animals housed at Oakland Zoo are rescues. Many of these were also victims of the illegal wildlife trade.

In Spring 2021 Oakland Zoo will be opening a new exhibit which is focused on addressing and demonstrating the devastation of the illegal wildlife trade.

“Our new exhibit about the wildlife trade industry is one of the most important messages we can pass on to our visitors. Combating the wildlife trade globally helps protect animal species populations and protects people from zoonotic diseases. As a wildlife conservation organization, this is at the heart of our mission,” said Dr. Joel Parrott, President, and CEO of Oakland Zoo.

zoonotic diseases zaa

Ting Ting the sun bear was confiscated from the pet trade after being captured as a cub.

Photo Credit: SEA LIFE Melbourne Aquarium

Learn more about sun bears here – Sun Bear Fact File | The Animal Facts


Learn more about Oakland Zoo on their website – Oakland Zoo

Get more info on the reduce the risk initiative on the AZA website – Reduce the Risk

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