ZAA Awards

2023 Award Applications
Application deadline: July 31, 2023


Educational Award of Excellence

The ZAA Educational Award of Excellence recognizes outstanding achievement and innovation in education program design and implementation.

Wolf Park
Next Generation Wildlife Advocates

Wolf Park began this initiative in 2021 with the inception of an 8 week teen program called Next Generation Wildlife Advocates specifically designed for teens with an interest in developing a career in wildlife conservation. Wolf Park added advocacy modules for all all summer youth programs and also incorporated activities for children to learn how to be backyard conservationists, including creating rain barrels and butterfly feeders.


Excellence in Breeding

The ZAA Excellence in Breeding Award recognizes a truly momentous captive propagation achievement that enhances the conservation of the species, whether common or endangered, in captivity.

San Antonio Zoo
Psychedelic Rock Gecko

The San Antonio Zoo began working with psychedelic rock geckos in 2016 with 5 animals from a USFWS confiscation. This endangered gecko species was first described in 2010 and very uncommon in zoo collections. Over 6 years with a combination of the improved husbandry and new pairings culminated in a breeding success. As of the end of August, 8 psychedelic rock geckos have hatched with several eggs still incubating.


Significant Propagation and Long Term Commitment to a Single Species

This award recognizes institutions that have reached significant propagation goals and have dedicated outstanding commitment to a single species.

Common Squirrel monkey,
Saimiri sciureus

Since 2006 Zoosiana has celebrated 65 births! Zoosiana works with ZAA accredited and affiliated facilities across the country, including through cooperative breeding agreements, to manage genetic vitality, troop size, and troop establishment at other facilities. Over 20 Zoosiana common squirrel monkeys have joined other troops in the last decade.

Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch
Giraffa camelopardalis

Since 1984, Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch has built two breeding herds, raising 45 offspring in 38 years!  In 2013, the 9th living set of giraffe twins was born at the Wildlife Ranch bringing global attention to the facility. Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch utilized this attention to host a five year giraffe symposium series so that caretakers could gather and network.  This led to several conservation projects such as co-founding the Save the Giraffe Non-Profit Organization in 2017, expeditions to collect wild giraffe semen, and the release of a documentary “Catching Giants”


Animal Exhibit Award of Excellence

The ZAA Animal Exhibit Award of Excellence recognizes excellence in the area of new and unique live animal display, exhibit design and construction.

The Wild Animal Park
"Ruins of the Wild: Monkey Temple"

The Ruins of the Wild: Monkey Temple, was an overhaul of an existing exhibit themed around a ruined temple to bring out a South American flare to the exhibit. The entire space was expanded both vertically and horizontally to allow the troop of Spider monkeys additional space to display natural behaviors. The exhibit was refaced with fresh concrete to give the appearance of crumbling stonewalls complete with hieroglyphics all able to be used 100% by the animals. The enlarged space and the addition of natural foliage throughout has created more natural stimulation. The design also incorporated additional features to improve ease of enrichment, animal and staff safety, and animal welfare.


Comprehensive Immersion Exhibit

The comprehensive immersion includes multiple quality animal exhibits supported with restaurants, gift shops, walkways or more that all support a thematic design. This expanded design theme connects the visitor to the animal and human inhabitants within a biogeographical area through a unique mixture of presenting the culture, landscaping, history and life within a biogeographical area.

Animal World & Snake Farm Zoo
"Reptile Conservation Center"

The new Reptile Conservation Center is located at the main entrance of the facility to exhibit a variety of reptile species in modern, naturalistic displays and to set up the overall guest impression for what they will experience throughout the rest of the zoo. The new exhibit includes new visitor reception area, conservation exhibits with state of the art lighting, thermostat systems, immersive viewing and digital display screens with touch potential.

The Wild Animal Park
"African Savanna Passage Exhibit"

The African Savanna Passage at the Wild Animal Park provides guests with a glimpse into the vast wilderness of Kenya’s Masai Mara region. Exhibit includes multi-species habitats including warthog, African crested porcupine, Southern ground hornbill, giraffe and tortoises. The African Passage adventure begins at the giraffe feeding station, with an ADA accessible deck with a shaded animal feed and refreshment stand. This new, larger deck allows guests to experience the giraffe at eye level. Boulders and glass viewing create unobstructed ways to observe African crested porcupines and Southern ground hornbills. Termite mounds and Kopje rocks provide hiding spaces for the warthogs, and the large exhibit allows for ample wallowing and digging and perfectly exemplifies the immersion aspect of the space.


In Situ Conservation

The ZAA In-Situ Conservation Award recognizes significant contributions to enhancing the conservation of an animal species in nature.

Tiger World Endangered Wildlife Preserve
Timbavati Lions, South Africa 

The Timbavati Lions are a vulnerable subspecies of lion, found in the Greater Kruger National Park which includes Timbavati South Africa. White lions only appear in this one place on earth, and have been severely impacted by trophy hunting.  The 2022 Toasting for Tigers event held at Tiger World raised over $26,000 for their conservation partner, the Global White Lion Protection Trust. This donation will support in-situ lion tracking and monitoring, anti-poaching measures, and veterinary costs for the Timbavati Lion population.


Ex Situ Conservation

The ZAA  Ex Situ Conservation Award recognizes excellence in captive care, welfare and propagation of animal species in captivity, as a hedge against extinction.

Columbus Zoo & Aquarium
Eastern Hellbender

The Eastern Hellbender is a Near Threatened salamander species native to Appalachian and Ozark Mountain regions of North America. In Ohio, they are classified as endangered with fewer than 200 individuals recorded in the state in the late 80s. The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium began partnering with the Ohio Division of Wildlife to captive rear larval hellbenders, known as head-starting. Since 2012, 800 head-started eastern hellbenders from the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium have been released in Ohio to bolster wild populations.


 Lifetime Achievement Award

The ZAA Lifetime Achievement Award is the highest ZAA honor for professional excellence and contribution to the zoo industry. The award recognizes the improvements made to the craft of zookeeping and zoo management by an individual. This award is not given every year, but as merit is achieved.

Mickey Ollson, 2021

In the early 1980's Mickey Ollson began raising exotic birds for other zoological collections while he was a school teacher. Starting with the ideas of a young boy and a hand drawn map of a zoo, Mickey began building his dream of his own zoo - Wildlife World Zoo, in Litchfield, Arizona, which opened to the public in 1984.  Over 40 years later, under Mickey's direction, Wildlife World Zoo has grown to 100 acres and houses over 6,000 animals.  In addition to his knowledge in the field of aviculture, Mickey is known for many contributions as industry-firsts, including the first zoo with overhead jaguar viewing and the first public exotic bird feeding.

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