San Diego Zoo Global Receives Top Honors for Tull Family Tiger Trail, Volunteer Engagement and International Conservation

San Diego Zoo Global has been recognized by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) with top honors for the San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s Tull Family Tiger Trail experience, San Diego Zoo Global’s volunteer engagement and San Diego Zoo Global’s collaborative work on the Sahara Conservation Fund. The awards were presented at the AZA Annual Conference, Sept. 17-21 in Salt Lake City, hosted by Utah’s Hogle Zoo.

“San Diego Zoo Global is extremely proud of receiving these honors from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums,” stated Douglas G. Myers, president and CEO, San Diego Zoo Global. “For almost 100 years, our organization has committed itself to saving species from extinction. These awards provide national recognition for the dedication and passion for wildlife exhibited by our staff and volunteers on a daily basis.”

Top Honors: Exhibit Design

The Tull Family Tiger Trail received Top Honors for Exhibit Design, an award that recognizes excellence by an AZA-accredited institution (US or international) or related facility member in the areas of exhibit design and providing visitors with the opportunity to engage in observing and learning about animals.

“This award recognizes the staff of San Diego Zoo Global for their planning, design, execution and opening of the Tull Family Tiger Trail,” said AZA President and CEO Jim Maddy. “Both animals and visitors benefit from the exhibit’s stunning backdrops and multi viewing opportunities, and the exhibit’s conservation messaging is powerful and action-driven to make an impactful experience.”

Tull Family Tiger Trail is a 5.2-acre Sumatran tiger habitat that simulates a Sumatran rain forest. The exhibit—named in honor of Thomas and Alba Tull, who donated $9 million for the project—offers up-close views of Sumatran tigers and highlights conservation efforts for this endangered species. Tiger Trail, which cost $19.5 million to create, includes three separate yards for the tigers, with rocks for climbing, ponds for swimming, deadwood trees to use as scratching posts and long grasses for catnaps. It also features a birthing den with an outdoor space.

“We are extremely proud to receive recognition for the Tull Family Tiger Trail experience at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park,” said Bob McClure, director, San Diego Zoo Safari Park. “For more than two decades, San Diego Zoo Global has been working to conserve the Sumatran tiger. This exhibit allows us to provide an exceptional venue to educate our guests about these beautiful animals, their plight in the wild and efforts to preserve tigers for generations to come.”

The San Diego Zoo Safari Park is home to seven Sumatran tigers. There are fewer than 350 Sumatran tigers in the wild, and that number continues to drop. Scientists estimate that this species could be extinct in its native Sumatra by 2020, unless measures are taken to protect and preserve it. Tigers face many challenges in the wild, from loss of habitats to conflict with humans, but the biggest threat continues to be poaching.

Two-year-old tiger brothers Conrad and Thomas relaxed in the Tull Family Tiger Trail this morning at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park as preview guests got a sneak peek of the new experience. Conrad and Thomas are two of the Park’s six Sumatran tigers that can be seen in the new 5.2-acre Tiger Trail.

Two-year-old tiger brothers Conrad and Thomas relaxed in the Tull Family Tiger Trail this morning at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park as preview guests got a sneak peek of the new experience. Conrad and Thomas are two of the Park’s six Sumatran tigers that can be seen in the new 5.2-acre Tiger Trail.

Top Honors: Volunteer Engagement

San Diego Zoo Global’s volunteer program received the Volunteer Engagement Award Top Honors, for outstanding achievement in program development and for engaging volunteers in the overall mission and operation of the organization. This is the first year this award has been presented.

“AZA and its accredited aquariums and zoos appreciate the dedication and passion of tens of thousands of volunteers, who work hard every year to help us accomplish our conservation and education mission,” said Maddy. “This award provides well-deserved recognition to San Diego Zoo Global for its innovative Volunteer Engagement program, through which the community is engaged in all facets of the San Diego Zoo’s, San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s and San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research’s operations.”

“Since its inception, volunteer engagement throughout San Diego Zoo Global has increased our organization’s ability to interact with audiences involved with our efforts,” said Tammy Rach, senior volunteer manager, San Diego Zoo Global. “Volunteer opportunities allow us to engage the community in important mission-driven work that is meaningful and relevant to both the volunteers and the organization.”

For almost 100 years, volunteers have played a crucial role in the organization’s success, taking it to a whole new level in 2009. With volunteers spread throughout many departments and over multiple campuses, it was decided to create one centralized hub for all volunteers through San Diego Zoo Global, as well as expand volunteer opportunities to include interpretive volunteers sharing key messages about conservation at both parks. Within the first five years of the organization’s new volunteer engagement strategy, the organization expanded to more than 100 different volunteer assignments, engaging over 2,000 volunteers each year. The service these volunteers contribute each year is now valued at over $4.1 million, according to Independent Sector, a coalition of nonprofits, foundations and corporate giving programs. San Diego Zoo Global’s volunteers are provided with training that speaks to all learning styles, are integrated into the organizational culture, and are valued, appreciated and recognized for their service.

Top Honors: International Conservation

San Diego Zoo Global also received the International Conservation Award Top Honors for AZA Zoos Giving Voice to the Sahara: Sahara Conservation Fund, as a model for a zoo-driven conservation movement. This annual award recognizes exceptional efforts toward regional habitat preservation, species restoration and support of biodiversity in the wild.

“Conservation is a high priority for all AZA-accredited aquariums and zoos,” said Maddy. “Sahara Conservation Fund serves as a model for how AZA-accredited institutions working together can launch a conservation movement—and it is receiving this award for the direct, positive impact it is making on the future of the world’s wildlife.”

Sahara Conservation Fund today is recognized as an authority on conservation in the Sahara. It works in some of the poorest nations on the planet, under harsh environmental conditions, in a region of the world that is no stranger to political instability and social unrest. Yet, it has been able to thrive and engender the first real hope for a future for the Sahara’s wildlife, because of 52 AZA-accredited zoos and other partners rising to the challenge.

In just a few short years of collaboration, there is now a reserve—the largest in Africa—where the last significant population of addax, one of the most critically endangered antelope, has a better chance for survival. The Saharan race of the red-necked ostrich is now breeding in a conservation breeding center in Niger, and there is hope for its reintroduction into the wild in coming years. Plans are also underway to restore the scimitar-horned oryx—which became extinct in the wild more than 25 years ago— to Chad.

“San Diego Zoo Global, with focus on the Saharan red-necked ostrich, is honored to be a part of the Sahara Conservation Fund collaborative project,” stated Michael Mace, curator of birds, San Diego Zoo Safari Park. “Through a commitment to make a difference, AZA-accredited zoos have played a leadership role in creating the Sahara Conservation Fund and driving its mission. This program is a perfect example of what AZA-accredited zoos can do to become a conservation force on the planet.

Additional collaborative partners on the Sahara Conservation Fund project include: Abilene Zoo Audubon Nature Institute, Blank Park Zoo, Brevard Zoo, Bronx Zoo/Wildlife Conservation Society, Buffalo Zoo, Busch Gardens Tampa, Calgary Zoo, Chicago Zoological Society-Brookfield Zoo, Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, Dickerson Park Zoo, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Erie Zoo, Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, Fossil Rim Wildlife Center, Fresno Chaffee Zoo, John Ball Zoo, Houston Zoo, Kansas City Zoo, Lee Richardson Zoo, Lehigh Valley Zoo, Los Angeles Zoo, Milwaukee County Zoo, Minnesota Zoo, Nashville Zoo, North Carolina Zoological Park, Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo, Oregon Zoo, Philadelphia Zoo, Phoenix Zoo, Potawatomi Zoo, Rolling Hills Zoo, Sacramento Zoo, Safari West, Saint Louis Zoo, San Antonio Zoo, San Francisco Zoo, Sedgwick County Zoo, Smithsonian National Zoological Park & Conservation Biology Institute, The Living Desert, The Wilds, Toledo Zoo, Tulsa Zoo, Utah’s Hogle Zoo, White Oak Conservation Center, Woodland Park Zoo, Zoo Atlanta, Zoo Boise, Zoo Miami and Zoo New England.

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 seven 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. The AZA is a leader in saving species and your link to helping animals all over the world. To learn more, visit

Bringing species back from the brink of extinction is the goal of San Diego Zoo Global. As a leader in conservation, the work of San Diego Zoo Global includes on-site wildlife conservation efforts (representing both plants and animals) at the San Diego Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, as well as international field programs on six continents. The work of these entities is made accessible to children through the San Diego Zoo Kids network, reaching out through the Internet and in children’s hospitals nationwide. The work of San Diego Zoo Global is made possible by the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy and is supported in part by The Foundation of San Diego Zoo Global.

Photo by Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo Global