Animal Management Programs

Like modern-day Noah’s arks, zoos like ours breed animals as a hedge against extinction in the wild. In collaboration with other institutions accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), the L.A. Zoo ensures that animal populations in human care are sustainable – healthy, biodiverse, and exhibiting the natural behaviors that would be essential for survival in the wild. Many species – including the black-footed ferret, Arabian oryx, Spix’s macaw, and the California condor – have been restored to the wild thanks to these efforts.  

Species Survival Plans (SSP)

The L.A. Zoo currently participates in more than 120 Species Survival Plans, among them plans for the critically endangered Western lowland gorilla, blue-throated macaw, and radiated tortoise.

Managed by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), SSPs cooperatively manage zoo animals in order to maintain healthy and self-sustaining captive populations that are genetically diverse and demographically stable. Each SSP includes a studbook and breeding and transfer plan that identifies population management goals. SSP coordinators consider not only genetics but also space, resources, the maintenance of natural social groupings, and the personalities of individual animals in making their matchmaking recommendations. Participation in SSPs also involves cooperating with other institutions, increasing public awareness, conducting research, and training professionals.

Learn more about SSPs at the AZA website.

Taxon Advisory Group (TAG)

TAGs examine the sustainability and conservation needs of entire taxa—groups of organisms seen by taxonomists to form a unit, e.g. snakes, marine mammals, amphibians, raptors, or apes. They develop recommendations for population management and conservation based upon the needs of the species and AZA-accredited institutions, and they coordinate, facilitate, and review progress toward goals for their cooperative animal management and conservation programs.

Regional Studbooks

Regional studbooks document the pedigree and entire demographic history of each animal within a managed population among AZA-accredited institutions, conservation partners, and certified related facilities. Los Angeles Zoo staff maintain studbooks for a number of species, some of which are part of our collection, such as the sacred ibis, Cape vulture, and Santa Catalina Island rattle-less rattlesnake.

AZA SAFE: Saving Animals from Extinction

Through AZA SAFE, AZA-accredited facilities collectively work to harness their conservation science, wildlife expertise, and combined 183 million annual visitors to save species in the wild by identifying threats, developing action plans, raising new resources, and engaging the public. The L.A. Zoo is a partner in the SAFE action plans for African vultures, Asian songbirds, chimpanzees, and orangutans.

Public awareness and support are crucial to the success of these programs.

“African vulture populations are plummeting out of control,” says L.A. Zoo Curator of Birds Mike Maxcy. The main goal of the African vulture action plan is to improve the status of five species in their native ranges. Reaching the ambitious goals set forth in the plan requires a lot of hard work by dedicated experts. It also requires public awareness and support, which is “critical to the success of this program,” says Maxcy.