AZA SAFE Programs

The Brandywine Zoo is a program partner of several AZA SAFE programs

The Association of Zoos and Aquariums SAFE (Saving Animals from Extinction) program is a framework that focuses the collective expertise within accredited zoos and aquariums and leverages their massive audiences to save species. Saving Animals From Extinction focuses the collective expertise within AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums and leverages their massive audiences to save species.

Together AZA’s SAFE programs are saving the most vulnerable wildlife species from extinction and protecting them for future generations. The mission of SAFE: Saving Animals From Extinction is to combine the power of zoo and aquarium visitors with the resources and collective expertise of AZA members and partners to save animals from extinction. Our work with the African Vultures SAFE program includes supporting education and outreach, capacity-building, and fundraising.

See how we’re helping to save animals from extinction.

SAFE logo

North American Monarch SAFE

Monarch SAFE logoIn 2020, we joined the North American Monarch SAFE (Saving Animals From Extinction) program. This is a coalition of more than 100 AZA accredited zoos and aquariums, plus monarch-focused nonprofit organizations working to save the North American monarch butterfly.

What the zoo is doing

Butterfly Native plantsWe currently have multiple areas in the zoo where we grow butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa), a species of milkweed that monarchs need to complete their life cycle, as well as other native plants. These serve as important waystations for pollinators to refuel on nectar and reproduce.
We host native plant sales during peak migration and planting seasons to promote native plants in home gardens for migrating monarchs. This also serves as a way to educate the public on the importance of native plants in backyard spaces. The money generated from these plant sales go to the Delaware Zoological Society’s Conservation fund.

Monarch SAFE data loggersIn 2021, we participated in the M3 Monarch Migration Study led by the University of Michigan. This project utilizes Onset HOBO MX 2202 data loggers to collect light, pressure, and temperature data. This information helps researchers determine the daily flight paths of individual monarch butterflies for the first time! By using these new technologies, we can better track Monarchs’ migration and protect their migration routes.

What you can do

Native Milkweed in Every Yard
Milkweed is a host plant for monarch butterflies, and native milkweed plants are the best choice to help feed and rear the next generation of monarchs. Adults lay their eggs on milkweed and monarch caterpillars feed on the plants. Find free milkweed plants: Monarch Watch, Milkweed 4 Monarchs, Live Monarch, Grow Milkweed Plants.

Find out what to plant using the National Wildlife Federation’s native plant finder . This useful website lists the best pollinator plants for your site based on your zip code.

Harvest your pesticide-free milkweed seed pods and donate them to the zoo! We will save them to give away to guests during programs or grow plants for giveaways or at our native plant sale. Save mature, dry pods by storing them in a moisture free bag or learn to harvest seeds.

Email to donate your seed pods.

Community Science Opportunities
You can participate in community science opportunities to save monarchs by reporting monarch sightings via Journey North, report monarch eggs and larva via Monarch Joint Venture, and report migrating monarchs (typically in the fall) with Monarch Watch.

Reduce Pesticides
Plant monarch SAFE plants in your gardenReduce or eliminate your use of pesticides that can directly and indirectly harm essential pollinators. Ask your garden centers for pesticide-free pollinator plants (both topical applications and systemic pesticides that plants are bred with) to make sure the plants in your garden won’t harm monarchs.

Rear and Release?
In recent years, many people have tried to help monarchs by captive rearing caterpillars and later releasing adult butterflies. At this time, it is recommended to avoid captive rearing of monarchs, which has been linked to lower survivorship and the transmission of diseases, read more.

Cut Back Tropical Milkweed
Cut back tropical (non-native) milkweed in mid-October to discourage monarchs from overwintering in Delaware and to help reduce disease transmission. Even better, plant native milkweed and other pollinator-friendly plants in your own garden. Use the native plant finder from the National Wildlife Federation.

North American Songbird SAFE

North American Songbird SAFE focuses on minimizing some of the main threats to songbirds including bird collisions with glass and encouraging visitors to adopt best practices at home, increasing effective messaging regarding domestic cat impacts on wildlife, preserving and building native habitats on AZA members’ grounds and in the communities they serve, reducing contaminants that affect North American songbirds, increasing bird friendly behavior through education and creating empathy, and ending the trafficking of North American songbirds. Find out more.

Brandywine Zoo supports this program by celebrating World Migratory Bird Day each year, using bird-strike decals on our glass windows to reduce collisions, educating guests about bird friendly practices they can do at home, participating in citizen/community science projects, and coordinating with local businesses to drink Bird Friendly Coffee.


African vultures are an official SAFE species, and program partners are working to combat the African vulture crisis. Vulture populations in Africa are facing extinction due to poisoning related to poaching and human-wildlife conflict. SAFE program partners are working with local communities to respond to poisoning and poaching incidents, rehabilitate injured vultures, breed and reintroduce vultures, and research wild vultures.

Brandywine Zoo supports this program with staff working on the steering committee for this program. Our staff lead education and community outreach efforts for the Vultures SAFE program, help coordinate AZA member organizations’ efforts for International Vulture Awareness Day, and annually fundraise for vulture conservation.

African Vultures SAFE logo