The Aquarium is partnering with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) on a new initiative: “Saving Animals From Extinction” (SAFE).

This comprehensive, long-term commitment combines the power of zoo and aquarium visitors with the resources and collective expertise of AZA members and partners to protect animals for future generations. Over time, 100 species will be identified that not only have the most urgent needs in the wild, but these animals are viewed as species that can be helped the most by the experts and assets of zoos and aquariums. 

Through SAFE, conservation action plans are being developed for individual species and groups of animals, like sharks, that are facing the same challenges. The Aquarium is part of this broad coalition, helping solve some of these issues while continuing to protect and restore the rich biodiversity in our backyard. 

Since opening, the Aquarium has been working to save aquatic animals and restore habitats in our region through the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute (TNACI). We began by researching and restoring freshwater mussels that clean our streams. Today we are working on projects to save Tennessee’s only native trout, river giants like Lake Sturgeon, tiny topminnows and colorful darters. TNACI scientists are also developing conservation action plans for reptiles and amphibians in the Southeast.

Our collaborative work with other AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums includes leading AZA Species Survival Plans for critically endangered Southeast Asian turtles. Sharing expertise and managing the genetic diversity of these animals in human care helps ensure their existence if they become extinct in the wild.

We also engage students in conservation education through programs offered to school groups at the Aquarium and schools throughout the region. And, whenever possible, we create opportunities for kids to assist with reintroduction efforts. These lessons and events help inform and inspire the next generation of environmental stewards.

Ways you can help Save Animals From Extinction:

Become a Member

The success of SAFE depends in large part on people joining and visiting the Aquarium, learning, and sharing their knowledge and excitement with others. Engaged members have the potential to inform and influence a huge network of people about ways to support conservation work and change behaviors detrimental to the environment. 

We’re going to have a lot of fun along the way. Our Shark Fest member night, coming up on Friday, August 7th, will be a great opportunity for your family to learn more about these amazing creatures, talk to shark experts and be part of a new movement to turn the tide in favor of these toothy predators.

Make a Donation

Support the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute. TNACI is working to conserve native animals by reintroducing them to areas that have recovered from environmental degradation.

Create a Backyard Habitat

You can help animals by providing food, water, cover and a place to raise young in your backyard. Installing bird houses, feeders and baths not only meet some of these needs for native songbirds, they provide more opportunities to enjoy observing wildlife throughout the year. People are encouraged to dedicate at least “a yard of your yard” to butterflies and pollinators. Species like Monarchs and Honeybees are facing steep declines and need the colorful, nectar-bearing plants to survive.

The AZA-SAFE wildflower seed packets, provided to Aquarium guests during Endangered Species Day, contain seeds of five flowers to nourish butterflies and pollinators.

Purple Coneflower and Liatris are native perennials that will come back next year. Cosmos, Zinnias and Stock are annuals that offer great blooms and nectar throughout the season.

Planting instructions:

  • Plant seeds in a container and keep moist until they sprout. Do not allow to dry while sprouting. 
  • When plants are at least three inches tall, transplant to the garden in a sunny or partly sunny location. 
  • Keep mulched and watered.