Taxon Advisory Groups
Established by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) in 1990, Taxon Advisory Groups, or TAGs, examine conservation needs of entire taxa, or groups of related species. Each TAG consists of AZA Species Survival Plan© (SSP©) coordinators, studbook keepers, and individuals with expertise on one of the species covered by the TAG.
Serving as expert advisors, TAGs assist in the selection of species for conservation programs and facilitate discussions of husbandry, veterinary, ethical, and other issues that apply to entire taxa. They recommend species for new studbooks, SSPs and other programs; and establish priorities for management, research and conservation. In addition, TAGs examine animal management based on scientific studies and assist SSP coordinators in developing animal care and husbandry guidelines.
A primary responsibility is to evaluate the North American captive carrying capacity for a taxonomic group and recommend how space should be allocated. This process results in the development of Regional Collection Plans (RCPs). In developing RCPs, TAGs account for the limited amount of enclosure space available and the need to maintain animal populations large enough to ensure long-term genetic viability and demographic stability. They consider the potential of species to contribute to conservation through education, scientific research, fund-raising for field conservation and captive breeding for reintroduction. The goal of the planning process is that each species and individual animal held at AZA zoos and aquariums will be part of a cooperative population management program with a real conservation purpose.
Several criteria are involved in regional collection planning. The following criteria are used:
- current and anticipated captive space available;
- current captive population size and composition;
- status in the wild;
- sufficient number of founders (individual wild blood lines) available;
- usefulness of the taxon to save habitat and other taxa (i.e., is taxon a "flagship", "keystone", or "umbrella" species?);
- research potential;
- educational potential;
- public appeal and ability to assist in fund raising to support field conservation;
- uniqueness of the taxa;
- ability to survive in human altered ecosystems;
- probability of successful reintroduction to the wild, if appropriate and necessary.
Minnesota Zoo staff participate in Taxon Advisory Groups managing the threatened and endangered species we exhibit at our Zoo.
Minnesota Zoo Leadership Roles in Taxon Advisory Groups
Felid TAG – Dr. Tara Harris, Director of Conservation (steering committee)
Deer TAG – Tony Fisher, Collection Manager (Chair)
Pangolin, Aardvark, Xenarthra TAG – Christine McKnight, Behavioral Enrichment Coordinator (steering committee); Veterinary Advisor, Dr. Tiffany Wolf
Bear TAG – Diana Weinhardt, Supervisor of Northern Trail/Russia’s Grizzly Coast (steering committee)