AZA - Association of Zoos and Aquariums

11/20/2023 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 11/20/2023 15:22

Busiest Travel Season Not Limited To Humans; Lincoln Park Zoo Announces New Suite of Initiatives to Mitigate Wildlife Trafficking

Groundbreaking real-world actions launch to combat the illegal wildlife trade

Chicago- Thanksgiving kicks off the busiest travel season of the year, with millions of people flying in a single day. However, it is not just holiday travelers passing through airports; wildlife trafficking is also prevalent this time of year. In light of this, Lincoln Park Zooand its partners have identified new and groundbreaking ways to collaboratively combat the illegal wildlife trade in Chicago and on a global scale.


Today, Lincoln Park Zoo announced that it will be the first North American zoo partner of Monitor Conservation Research Society(Monitor). This international organization investigates wildlife trafficking and its drivers, while raising consumer awareness and concern, as well as advising policy and conservation interventions. Monitor's specific focus is on lesser-known species and issues involved in wildlife trafficking.

"We are extremely excited about this partnership and look forward to tackling illegal and unsustainable wildlife trade together," said Executive Director of Monitor Chris Shepherd, Ph.D. "A rapidly increasing number of species are being pushed toward the brink of extinction and only through collaborative efforts, making effective use of data and innovative ideas, will we turn this tide."

Lincoln Park Zoo will support Monitor with research, using science and data-backed findings to better understand the issues facing animals at high risk for trafficking. Lincoln Park Zoo is home to one of the largest zoo-based conservation and science programs in the country, with satellite research projects across the world. Findings through this partnership help identify threats to and trends among trafficked wildlife and stay informed as to which species will be in demand next. Zoo-backed research can also help craft welfare-minded interception plans for illegally traded wildlife and inform policies and protections that aim to prevent trafficking from happening in the first place.

"The number one threat to wildlife is humans, whether that be through habitat destruction, climate change, or illegal wildlife trafficking," said Vice President of Conservation & Science at Lincoln Park Zoo Sunny Nelson. "Lincoln Park Zoo is energized by partnerships like this one with Monitor that use data-informed practices to create real change on behalf of wildlife."


Lincoln Park Zoo also recently unveiled a new installation at O'Hare International Airport in partnership with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums'(AZA) Wildlife Trafficking Allianceand U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service(USFWS). The exhibit, located in the airport's primarily international Terminal 5, aims to inform travelers flying in and out of the U.S. about global wildlife trafficking and how they can help put an end to the illegal trade.

"Because demand for trafficked wildlife and wildlife products is driving thousands of animals toward extinction, consumers hold the key to ending the scourge of wildlife trafficking," said President & CEO of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Dan Ashe. "The new installation at O'Hare International Airport - the second one in the U.S. - will educate and inspire thousands of travelers to help protect these treasured species for generations to come."

The installation calls attention to some of the real animals that have been trafficked through O'Hare. This includes amphibians and reptiles like chameleons, crocodiles, snakes, and frogs, as well as larger mammals like the African crested porcupine. While the goal is to return these animals back to the wild, many of them are no longer able to live in the wild and find permanent homes in AZA-accredited facilities like Lincoln Park Zoo.

Through its longstanding partnership with USFWS, Lincoln Park Zoo also plays a role in the training of their wildlife detector dogs. These dogs are trained to sniff out animals and animal products traveling through O'Hare. The zoo provides USFWS with rhinoceros horn and nail trimmings obtained during routine care of the rhinos at the zoo. The dogs memorize the scent of these trimmings and then scan bags and luggage for this commonly trafficked animal product, among others.

Lincoln Park Zoo is grateful for all its partners in the fight to end wildlife trafficking. In addition to AZA, USFW, and Monitor, the zoo would also like to thank the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, The Chicago Department of Aviation, and Congressman Mike Quigley for their continued support.


Lincoln Park Zoo inspires communities to create environments where wildlife will thrive in our urbanizing world. The zoo is a leader in local and global conservation, animal care and welfare, learning, and science. A historic Chicago landmark founded in 1868, the not-for-profit Lincoln Park Zoo is a privately-managed, member-supported organization and is free and open 365 days a year. Visit us at