the 2024 ANNUAL Conference

September 30 - October 4, 2024

Columbus, OH | Hosted by Columbus Zoo and The Wilds

Click here to visit the OFFICIAL CONFERENCE WEBSITE for more information and to register.


Click here to submit an abstract for the 2024 Conference. Deadline July 1st, 2024

Click here to submit an application for the 2024 AJ Higginbottom Scholarship. Deadline July 1st, 2024

Click here to submit an application for the 2024 Mickey Ollson Education Scholarship. Deadline July 1st, 2024

Click here to apply for an award. Deadline June 30th, 2024


Hyatt Regency Columbus

350 N High St

Columbus, OH 43215

ZAA Conference rate: $199/night 

Must book by September 2, 2024 to receive the conference rate.

Group booking link:


Meet our 2024 Conference Keynote Speaker: Joel Sartore!

In 2006, world renowned photographer Joel Sartore founded the National Geographic Photo Ark in an effort to document every species living in human care, inspire action through education, and help protect wildlife by supporting on-the-ground conservation efforts. For more than 17 years, he’s traveled to zoos, aquariums, and wildlife sanctuaries around the world in his quest to create a photo archive of global biodiversity. Sartore is a National Geographic Explorer, public speaker, author, educator, conservationist and regular contributor to National Geographic magazine. In 2018, he was named the Rolex National Geographic Explorer of the Year.



This year's Zoo Day host is Columbus Zoo, located in Powell, OH, just half an hour from the conference venue. Columbus Zoo is home to over 10,000 animals representing 600 species, including lions, tigers, elephants, giraffes, bears, gorillas and more. 

In addition to Zoo Day, this year we have a Post-Conference Tour hosted by The Wildslocated in Cumberland, OH. After a scenic 90-mile bus ride, experience The Wilds! Guests will get to view vast pastures of rhinos, giraffes, cheetahs, and many other rare and endangered animals. 


Interested in becoming a 2024 Conference Exhibitor? Click here to be taken to our official conference website, where you can view package details and register. 


1. Butterfly Project-Housing Replacement for Captive Stock

Organization: The Teaching Zoo at Moorpark College

Principal Investigator: Dr. Jana Johnson


The Butterfly Project is carried out at The Teaching Zoo at Moorpark College, a ZAA Accredited Facility, and has been developed and operated by Dr. Janna Johnson, who is a tenured faculty member at Moorpark College. The Butterfly Project has worked on three endangered species and is currently working on the endangered Palos Verdes blue butterfly, Glaucopsyche lygdamus palosverdesensis. The mission is captive rearing to serve as a refugium, a source for supplementing the wild population, a source to establish new populations within historic range, and research to help the recovery effort.

Primary Objectives:

  • To replace and update the captive rearing structures and establish a permanent, sustainable food plant cleaning station. 
  • Improved ability to care for the captive butterfly population allowing for sustained releases to the wild. 

2. Investigating human behavior based on their perceptions and attitudes towards rhino conservation in north-central Namibia.

Organization Namibia University of Science and Technology and Namibia Development Trust  

Principal Investigator: Halleluya Natanael Shaanika

Etosha National Park has the largest single population of black rhinos in Namibia.  Rhino poaching over the last 7 years has been linked to local people.  The purpose of this study is to identify drivers and barriers to reporting rhino poaching around Etosha National Park.  The findings will be used as the baseline to develop an innovative and holistic long-term monitoring framework that will be used to measure whether there is a positive or negative change in local beliefs, perceptions, attitudes and intentional behavior changes towards rhino conservation in Etosha National Park.

Primary Objectives:

  • Determine the social context of rhino conservation in and around Etosha National Park.
  • Assess beliefs, attitudes and perceptions of local communities towards rhino conservation in and around Etosha National Park.
  • Outline the intentional behavioral change of the local communities towards rhino conservation efforts in Etosha National Park.

3.     Turtle Survival Alliance - Reintroducing radiated tortoises to community protected forests in Southern Madagascar

Organization: Turtle Survival Alliance

Principal Investigator: Mrs. Makayla Peppin-Sherwood

TSA is currently responsible for caring for over 23,000 tortoises in two primary centers in Madagascar.  The costs of staff, security, and operations for managing this number of tortoises are unsustainable; hence, there is a critical need to continue getting tortoises back into their native habitats.  The goal over the next five years is to return 20,000 tortoises to protected areas.

Following the success of the monitoring strategy and methods from the first 3,000 reintroduced tortoises, in 2024, TSA will closely monitor a subset of tortoises from each pen after their release.  The selected individuals will be equipped with VHF radio transmitters, GPS loggers, and iButton temperature loggers.  Local staff from the Lavalolo Tortoise Center and the Tortoise Conservation Center will travel to each site and radio-track these tortoises every 2 weeks for at least one year following their release. GPS data will be downloaded twice yearly.  In this proposal, funds will be used for reintroduction activities at Malaintsatroke, Ambatosarotse, and a recently identified site in the Atsimo-Andrefana (AA) region known as Mahazoarivo. The reintroduction in the AA region will be the first large-scale reintroduction for this region.

Primary Objectives:

  • Develop the best methods for reintroducing tortoises into suitable areas.
  • The success of these reintroductions will be measured in terms of tortoise survivorship and population sustainability over time.
  • The continuation of thorough post-reintroduction monitoring, especially for these first reintroductions, is critical to the responsible reintroduction of ~23,000 tortoises currently in the care of various Alliance facilities in Madagascar.
  • Build capacity through technology transfer and training the Malagasy staff, students, and community guardians to continue monitoring of reintroduced tortoises in the absence of ex-pat biologists

4.     Breeding Biology and Post-fledging Behavior of the Critically Endangered White-bellied Heron Ardea insignis.

OrganizationRoyal Society for Protection of Nature

Principal Investigator: Mr. Indra Acharja

This research aims to study the breeding biology and behavior of the critically endangered White-bellied Heron in Bhutan, focusing on pair bonding, courtship, nesting, egg laying, incubation, and parental care through to fledging and post-fledging survival.  Despite ongoing conservation efforts, the species' population continues to decline, highlighting the need for more detailed knowledge to inform effective conservation actions.  Utilizing field observation, remote camera surveillance, and historical data review, the study seeks to enhance understanding and improve captive breeding and conservation strategies.

Primary Objectives:

  • Document the pair-bonding, courtship displays, nest-building, and mating behavior
  • Document egg laying, incubation, brooding, and fledgling processes, and timeframe
  • Understand parental time investment in the breeding process – from nest building to until chicks fledging
  • Document developmental behavior and key observable growth milestones in chicks
  • Describe and document the fledging process and post-fledging behavior, including chicks’ dependency on parents after fledging

5.     Mandrill Conservation and Research in Lope National Park, Gabon

OrganizationAgence Nationale des Parcs Nationaux, Gabon

Principal Investigator: Dr. David Lehmann

The Mandrill Conservation and Research Project in Lopé National Park aims to address critical conservation concerns regarding the vulnerable mandrill species in its natural habitat. Our project investigates the impact of climate change, habitat degradation, and declining fruit production on mandrill populations. Through comprehensive field research and genetic studies, we contribute to the understanding and preservation of these charismatic primates.

Climate change has led to significant shifts in wildlife behavior, prompting adaptive responses such as migration and dietary adjustments. These changes are vital for species survival amidst habitat degradation and food source depletion. Understanding how animals adapt within their habitats is crucial, especially for species with distinct male and female lifestyles, as their resilience to environmental changes depends on navigating these fluctuations while remaining in the same habitat for breeding.  The mandrill, known for its sexual dimorphism, provides insight into how such differences influence species’ resilience.  By studying mandrills in the Lopé National Park, a horde of more than 800 individuals, this study aims to understand how males and females adapt to environmental variability through their diet and spatial behavior.

Primary Objectives:

  • Assess the impact of ecological dynamics, sexual dimorphism, and genetic diversity on mandrill resilience.
  • Investigate the influence of climate change and habitat impoverishment on mandrill behavior and population dynamics.
  • Enhance conservation strategies through the identification of key habitat resources and park limits management strategies.
  • Investigate social organization and the evolution of matriarchal society.
  • Collaborate with local stakeholders to promote sustainable conservation practices and community engagement.
  • Become a sustainable development research and conservation project, securing employment, training, and academic pathways of Gabonese nationals and long-term data collection.

Other upcoming conferences

2025 Mid-Year Conference 
February 11-14, 2025 

Issaquah, WA | Hosted by Cougar Mountain Zoo

2025 Annual Conference
Dates TBA

San Antonio, TX | Hosted by San Antonio Zoo

Past ZAA Conferences


Mid-Year Conference | Dallas/Fort Worth, TX


Annual Conference | Providence, RI | Hosted by Southwick's Zoo

Mid-Year Conference | Virtual


Annual Conference | Phoenix, AZ | Hosted by Wildlife World Zoo, Aquarium & Safari Park

Mid-Year Conference | Gulf Breeze, FL | Hosted by Gulf Breeze Zoo


Annual Conference | Fort Worth, TX | Hosted by Fort Worth Zoo

Mid-Year Conference | Virtual


Mid-Year Conference | Gulf Breeze, FL | Hosted by Gulf Breeze Zoo


Annual Conference | Montgomery, AL | Hosted by Montgomery Zoo

Mid-Year Conference | Austin, TX | Hosted by Austin Savanna


Annual Conference | West Orange, NJ | Hosted by Turtle Back Zoo


Annual Conference | San Antonio, TX | Hosted by San Antonio Zoo


Mid-Year Conference | Mendon, MA | Hosted by Southwick's Zoo


Annual Conference | Las Vegas, NV


Annual Conference | Gulf Breeze, FL | Hosted by Gulf Breeze Zoo


Annual Conference | Phoenix, AZ | Hosted by Wildlife World Zoo


Annual Conference | Sevierville, TN | Hosted by Rainforest Adventures Discovery Zoo


Annual Conference | Arlington, TX


Annual Conference | Broussard, LA | Hosted by Zoo of Acadiana


Annual Conference | Goddard, KS | Hosted by Tanganyika Wildlife Zoo


Annual Conference | Omaha, NE | Hosted by Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo


Annual Conference | Tampa, FL | Hosted by Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo


Annual Conference | San Diego, CA | Hosted by San Diego Zoological Society


Annual Conference | Montgomery, AL | Hosted by Montgomery Zoo

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