AZA Statement on TripAdvisor’s New Animal Encounter Booking Policy

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The travel and tourism website TripAdvisor announced a new booking policy, noting it would no longer sell tickets to certain attractions or experiences where tourists come into physical contact with animals. In a statement, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) notes that it stands behind every animal encounter program offered by its members.

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AZA knows animal ambassador and encounter programs, including “swim with” programs and other encounters with marine mammals, have proven educational benefits and provide conservation value.

Yesterday, the travel and tourism website TripAdvisor announced a new booking policy, noting it would no longer sell tickets to certain attractions or experiences where tourists come into physical contact with animals. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) stands behind every animal encounter program offered by its members. Kris Vehrs, Interim President and CEO of AZA, issued the following statement:

"The Association of Zoos and Aquariums agrees with TripAdvisor that it is important the public understand the difference between animal encounters at AZA-accredited aquariums, nature centers, science centers and zoos, and those at non-accredited facilities.

"We look forward to offering TripAdvisor access to the hundreds of medical veterinarians, animal behavioral specialists and doctoral researchers in their efforts to inform and educate the 350 million monthly visitors that look to them for expert travel advice.

"AZA-accredited facilities have a long history of leadership in developing and adopting state-of-the-art animal care and welfare practices. The quality of care provided by AZA member facilities is affirmed through our rigorous accreditation process, which assures the well-being of the animals in their care always comes first based on the highest levels of scientific evidence and data. That means assuring each individual animal’s health, welfare and safety is the top priority of any program offered to guests. We are also proud that each of our member facilities has earned recognition for excellence as a result of rigorous and lengthy program assessment, including strict animal care, education and conservation guidelines.

"AZA knows animal ambassador and encounter programs, including “swim with” programs and other encounters with marine mammals, have proven educational benefits and provide conservation value. Additionally, they allow millions of children and families each year to experience, connect with, and care about animals and ecosystems they would likely never otherwise see.

"Nobody understands this better than the zoological professionals who work with and care for these incredible animals each day.

"Working together with TripAdvisor, AZA and its members can ensure highly educational and positive animal welfare choices are made across the globe."

You can learn more about AZA’s accreditation standards at its website: https://www.aza.org/accreditation

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. Members of AZA are leaders in saving species and your link to helping animals all over the world. To learn more, visit http://www.aza.org.

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Rob Vernon
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