ZOO NEWS: Speaking up for values and Roosevelt Park Zoo

This week I will be attending the AZA’s Directors’ Policy Conference in San Antonio, Texas. As it will be my first opportunity to attend such a meeting since January 2020, it is an opportunity to gather with friends and colleagues that I have been associated with for more than 30 years. But even more important is the discussions that lie ahead.

The Policy Conference is limited to the Directors & CEOs of all the AZA accredited zoos and aquariums both nationally and internationally. While I’m certain that San Antonio is going to be warmer than we have been seeing here, I doubt I will be enjoying much of the outdoors as most of the days will be spent in large and small groups working on discussing the direction of the organization.

Prior to the beginning of the conference there will be time to visit the San Antonio Zoo as attendees arrive and a dinner that evening, but the work begins at 7 a.m. the next morning as attendees gather for breakfast and then kick-off the business of the day. The agenda will be everything from a panel discussion on the ethics surrounding developments in genetic technology to trends within the profession. There are government affairs, conservation, and even employee relations on the docket. And yes, there will be several sessions regarding various animals and the animal programs.

Over the 3 days, there will be many discussions and opinions about the world today looking for direction moving into the future. As I argue for the values that make the Roosevelt Park Zoo such a special place, there will be others who will be just as passionate about their facilities. Most of the largest zoos & aquariums are found in the large urban areas across the country. I trust that each institutional leader is working for the best interest of the community they serve, hence the policies, activities, and beliefs they promote are going to look a lot different than those we expect in Minot. While some of the smaller and medium size zoos are also located in urban areas, many of them reside in the smaller, more rural, and more conservative areas of the country. But when it comes to the care and welfare of the animals in our facilities, the organization works as one, to ensure the long-term viability of the profession to connect and communicate the importance of protecting these wild animals and the wild places they need for future generations.

This meeting is something I have looked forward to for several years when COVID forced everyone to stop gathering and later set requirements for attending the precluded my ability to join. But as the country has learned more about the virus and restrictions lifted, it is time to gather with my colleagues and voice an opinion on policies and priorities that have been taken on during this time of limited attendees. Like the lion, the crow, or even the squirrel, all one can do is to let their voice be heard. It is up to others to hear and understand them.


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