The AZA Ape TAG Conservation Initiative
serves to coordinate efforts among AZA zoos to protect wild apes.





The TAG oversees captive populations of the five ape taxa at 120 AZA-accredited zoos and related facilities.







Read a statement from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) regarding the use of apes in media and commercial performances.



Ape TAG Subcommittees

The Ape TAG includes six subcommittees whose members work to address the major conservation and management initiatives of the TAG. These committees and their chairpersons include:


In situ Conservation
Tara Stoinski, Zoo Atlanta
The ultimate goal of any zoological institution is to ensure the long-term survival of wildlife and wild places. Unfortunately, the situation for ape populations in the wild is critical, with many populations, subspecies and even species predicted to go extinct in the near future. The Conservation Committee works to enhance zoo-based efforts to conserve wild apes through its Conservation Initiative.

Birth Management/Surrogate Rearing
Dusty Lombardi, Columbus Zoo and Aquarium
The knowledge base and success rates of captive reproduction in ape species have greatly increased over the last several decades. While mother rearing of young is always preferable, in some cases it becomes necessary to surrogate rear an infant. This committee facilities resource and information sharing around the birthing and new techniques of surrogate rearing of apes.


Kristen Lukas, Cleveland Metroparks Zoo
Although much is learned about various ape species through observations of natural behavior in the wild, there is also tremendous knowledge gained from the study of apes in captivity. In a controlled setting such as a zoo, we are able to get much closer to the animals and observe their behavior, health, and physiology in a more consistent manner. Captive researchers look into areas as diverse as social dynamics and cognition to endocrinology and disease processes. The Research Committee is responsible for reviewing and approving research proposals and facilitates sharing of research techniques and findings.

Chris Kuhar, Cleveland Metroparks Zoo
The Education Committee disseminates information about apes to a variety of audiences, from the zoo professional to the lay person. Creation and maintenance of a dynamic, informative, and user-friendly website is the current focus of this group. Ultimately, we aim to develop key messaging points for ape conservation that may be incorporated into programming and interpretives across member institutions as well as educational curricula and activities.

Rich Bergl, North Carolina Zoological Park
The Biomaterials Committee oversees the important work of "banking" biological materials collected from apes during necropsies (animal autopsies). By properly collecting and storing biomaterials, we ensure they can be used by researchers in perpetuity to answer a host of scientific questions about ape health, morphology, biology, evolution, etc.

Captive Care and Welfare
Lisa New, Knoxville Zoo
Connie Phillip, Nashville Zoo
Scott Carter, Detroit Zoo

This committee is broken down into three main areas of focus:

  1. Animal Care Manuals
    SSP Coordinators
    Animal Care Manuals provide a compilation of knowledge provided by recognized animal experts based on the current science, practice, and technology of animal management. The manual assembles basic requirements, best practices, and animal care recommendations to maximize capacity for excellence in animal care and welfare. See AZA's web page for more information on Animal Care Manuals.

  2. Entertainment
    Steve Ross, Lincoln Park Zoo
    Tracy Fenn, Jacksonville Zoo

    This subcommittee is responsible for reviewing the current use of apes in entertainment and assessing the messages that are associated with such practices. The subcommittee works with AZA facilities to ensure they consider the ways in which their apes are portrayed for advertising, fundraising, and other purposes.

  3. Training
    Barbara Weber, Disney's Animal Kingdom
    Tracy Fenn, Jacksonville Zoo

    Animal keepers create trusting relationships with the animals in their care through operant conditioning and positive reinforcement. These relationships allow animal keepers to train apes to participate in their care. Training an ape, for example, to present parts of its body for inspection precludes the need to anesthetize the animal for a simple exam. The Training Committee creates resource materials and symposiums geared toward sharing tools and best practices for training apes.

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