Welcome Letters


Conference Host

Paul A. Baribault

Paul BaribaultSan Diego Zoo Global is tremendously honored to be chosen to host the 2020 annual conference of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) with the International Zoo Educators Association. WAZA was established to provide our community with an invaluable network for collaborating on the care and conservation of the world’s wildlife. We are proud to hold WAZA’s diamond anniversary in San Diego and bring us all together to discuss the future of our profession and what the next 75 years could bring.

Success in our field means all species have access to healthy ecosystems and their populations are sustainable. By working in our communities and beyond to create a culture of conservation, zoos and aquariums play a vital role in bringing this vision to fruition. With more than 700 million guests coming through our doors each year, we have an unprecedented opportunity to influence and move a global community to act on behalf of wildlife. No other collection of institutions is more uniquely positioned to drive positive change for our planet.

During our meeting, we will work together to tackle some of the most complex topics of our time, and determine how we will collaborate and innovate to turn the tide in favor of the world’s treasured plants and animals. We will build a shared vision that can galvanize our efforts to save species from the brink of extinction. We will also partner with a variety of organizations long term, in order to build a road map that will guide us to success.

We are very excited to have the opportunity to share San Diego Zoo Global’s practices, perspective, and passion with you. Even more, we look forward to the collaboration that will establish us all as the leaders and advocates for wildlife that people need us to be.

Paul A. Baribault
San Diego Zoo Global


WAZA President

Professor Theo Pagel

Theo PagelDear Colleagues and Friends,

On behalf of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) and its global network of zoos, aquariums, regional and national associations, and partners, we would like to welcome you to the 75th WAZA Annual Conference in San Diego, which will be carried out jointly with the International Zoo Educators Association (IZE).

This is the second time that a WAZA conference takes place in San Diego; the first one was back in 1962. Back then, it was visionary to imagine the significant role our community would have in saving some of the world’s most iconic and lesser-known species. We are celebrating a milestone: 75 conferences in which we have progressively strengthened our global commitment to species conservation. That is why the 2020 theme, “The Future of Zoos and Aquariums,” is particularly fitting. As we reflect on our origins, and how the zoo and aquarium community has evolved over the decades, it is important to look ahead and embrace the exciting future of progressive zoos and aquariums.

We are delighted to celebrate our collective efforts, together with IZE, at one of the most pioneering zoological institutions in the world. Our friends at San Diego Zoo Global are doing fantastic work in organizing a thought-provoking and impactful conference.

San Diego is a modern city that is famous for its miles of white-sand beaches, amazing weather, and its many tourist attractions (many of them a dream for nature lovers). It is also quite the culinary paradise, with cuisine influenced by its international cultural mix.

We invite you to share your knowledge at the 2020 conference, and continue working to make our unique global community more impactful and meaningful. We look forward to welcoming you to the beautiful city of San Diego!

Professor Theo Pagel
World Association of Zoos and Aquariums


IZE President

Debra Erickson

Paul BaribaultDear Colleagues,

During the last 60 years, we have seen multiple, major environmental movements change the landscape of species conservation. In the US, the modern environmental movement was ignited by Rachel Carson and her book, Silent Spring. It led to banning the use of the pesticide DDT, which had brought several bird species near the brink of extinction, including the peregrine falcon, bald eagle, and brown pelican.

Fast forward to today. The survival of wildlife today is still challenged by an ever-increasing number of issues, including habitat destruction, wildlife trafficking, and climate change. These issues threaten to drive more than a million species to extinction. The IUCN lists over 200 species and subspecies of mammals as critically endangered. Two mammals have gone extinct in the last decade, and there are only two northern white rhinos left on the planet.

Author and Pulitzer Prize winner Elizabeth Kolbert has recently sounded the alarm through her book The Sixth Extinction. Scientists are now monitoring what has been termed the sixth extinction, which is predicted to be the most devastating since the last mass extinction that wiped out the dinosaurs. During our time together in San Diego, Ms. Kolbert will be sharing her insights into this dilemma, which, in her words, is “a morbid topic” that combines both the excitement of discovery and the horror of realization.

We can continue in the footsteps of Rachel Carson, and those that have followed her, to help stem the tide of extinction. The theme of this year’s IZE conference, “Driving Conservation Behavior Change,” will help us continue building a road map that can guide us in moving our members, guests, and supporters to take action to save wildlife. Our colleagues will share their stories about the strides they have made, and we will work together to create a joint vision for our future initiatives.

Margaret Mead said “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.” In September 2019, 16-year-old Greta Thunberg inspired over four million people to strike for climate change. Imagine what we can do together by engaging our 700 million yearly visitors to drive true environmental change.

Debra Erickson
International Zoo Educators Association

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