Oakland Zoo Launches ‘Taking Action Against the Illegal Wildlife Trade’ Campaign with New Exhibit

Oakland Zoo
April 2, 2021

The new ‘Inside the Illegal Wildlife Trade’ 400 square foot exhibit opening, Wednesday April 7, addresses and demonstrates the effects and devastation of the illegal wildlife trade industry – including the decimations of many animal species and the spread of many zoonotic diseases

Oakland, CA –April 2, 2021…  Oakland Zoo — Conservation Society of California is Taking Action against the illegal wildlife trade with a new Zoo-wide, multi-platform campaign.

Inspired and led by Dr. Joel Parrott as his final endeavor as President & CEO of Oakland Zoo (today,April 2, is his last day as President and CEO) , the 'Taking Action AgainstThe Illegal Wildlife Trade' campaign is at the heart of the ConservationSociety of California's mission. Combating the wildlife trade does not only protect animals and their species - many of which are on the brink of extinction - but it protects people from zoonotic diseases* worldwide as greatly evidenced by the global COVID-19 pandemic.

The illegal wildlife trade is the unlawful capture and selling of products derived from wild animals or plants determined to be unsustainable. A multi-billion-dollar industry that is pushing wild animals and plants to further extinction. Around one million animal and plant species are on the brink of extinction due to human-related activities, many of which are linked to the industry of illegal wildlife trade.

“As my final project at the Oakland Zoo before my retirement, the new ‘Inside the Illegal Wildlife Trade’ exhibit represents one of the most important messages we can convey to our guests to help protect wildlife worldwide.  Going forward, Oakland Zoo will play an even more important role to inspire our visitors with hope, and an understanding that everyone can play a role in conservation of species”,  says Dr. Joel Parrott, retiringCEO and President of Oakland Zoo.

The launch of the campaign coincides with the grand opening of the 'Inside the Illegal Wildlife Trade' exhibit, located in the Zoo’s African Savanna area. Guests can experience the new 400 square foot exhibit throughout the year. Filled with actual contraband confiscated by the Department of Fish & Wildlife, along with thoughtful and extensive educational displays and a video screen, the exhibit addresses and demonstrates the effects and devastation of the illegal wildlife trade industry– including the decimations of many animal species and the spread of many zoonotic diseases. Guests leave the exhibit with a new understanding and inspired that they truly can make a difference on a personal level.

“We all have a responsibility.What we choose to eat, what we decide to buy, how we choose to spend our resources. Wildlife and the animals in the illegal wildlife trade, don’t have a voice. We need to be their voice,” says Nik Dehejia, incoming CEO and President ofOakland Zoo.

At the exhibit, guests will be encouraged to take a pledge to Take Action to #endthetrade.  The exhibit explains how one can make simple yet powerful choices on their purchases, pet choices, and travel – the three actions that can eliminate the industry altogether. Only 25% of animals poached from the wild and sold into the illegal wildlife pet trade actually survive their ordeal. Effecting behavioral changes of Zoo guests can dismantle their links to the industry as potential consumers.

This African leopard was hunted as a trophy and subsequently donated to Oakland Zoo to help the Zoo spread the message that trophy hunting is bad for wildlife and wild places

"These choices send a message that we consumers are aware, compassionate, and not afraid to ask.These choices end the trade," says Amy Gotliffe, Vice President of Conservation at Oakland Zoo. 

Oakland Zoo is also proud to announce its newest partnership, one with the Wildlife Trafficking Alliance (WTA), a program of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). So far, 80 AZA accredited zoos have signed up for the cause. The partnership will allow theZoo and WTA to work together to raise further public awareness of the scope of the wildlife trafficking crisis and effect change to end the trade.

With approximately 50% of Oakland Zoo's animal residents being rescues, dozens of those rescues are also victims of illegal wildlife trade both domestically and from overseas; including  countless reptiles, amphibians, Ting Ting –sun bear, Brock –Yellow-napped Amazon parrot, and more. The Zoo continuously works with and provides care and sanctuary for confiscated wildlife from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CADFW), and other organizations that enforce and protect wildlife.

Animals confiscated by officials at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) and the Port of Oakland have also been brought to Oakland Zoo over several years. They have been treated by veterinary hospital staff, quarantined, and monitored for health byAnimal Care and Veterinary Hospital staff.

“Our trusted partners at Oakland Zoo have assisted us time and time again for help caring for live animals that we end up with as a result of an investigation or a public safety incident. We’re grateful they’re willing to support us when we need to provide care for any animal seized during a wildlife trafficking investigation”, says Captain Foy of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Wallaby rescues at Oakland Zoo’s Veterinary Hospital who were given to the Zoo by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife after confiscating them private owner who illegally had the wallabies as exotic pets

Recently, Oakland Zoo accepted wallaby confiscations from the CDFW from a private owner who illegally had the wallabies as exotic pets. After the mandatory quarantine, the wallabies will live in their forever home in Wild Australia at Oakland Zoo.

The stories of the confiscated animals now living at Oakland Zoo help demonstrate the devastation the illegal wildlife trade causes. The new onsite exhibit, along with the campaign, hopes to explain that this issue is very close to home, with many animal confiscations from the illegal wildlife trade happening right here in the BayArea.

Our efforts go beyond Zoo grounds, with global partnerships with conservation organizations dedicated solely to the fight against the illegal wildlife trade, such as ARCAS in Guatemala. Oakland Zoo recently donated$20,000 to the construction of their new Biodiversity Education Centre in Lake Petén Itzá to build awareness illegal wildlife trade through education and awareness.


Adrienne Mrsny, Conservation Specialist at Oakland Zoo, working with ARCAS (one of the Zoo’s 25 conservation partners) who is dedicated solely to the fight against the illegal wildlife trade



For more information on theOakland Zoo’s ‘Taking Action Against the Illegal Wildlife Trade’ campaign, please go to: oaklandzoo.org/endthetrade

*A zoonotic disease is a disease that can transmit from animals to people or, more specifically, a disease that generally exists in animals but that can infect humans.





Oakland Zoo, home to more than 850 native and exotic animals, is managed by the Conservation Society of California (CSC); a non-profit organization leading an informed and inspired community to take action for wildlife locally and globally. With over 25 conservation partners and projects worldwide, the CSC is committed to conservation-based education and saving species and their habitats in the wild.Oakland Zoo is dedicated to the humane treatment of animals and is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), the national organization that sets the highest standards for animal welfare for zoos and aquariums.


The Wildlife Trafficking Alliance (WTA) is a coalition of more than 80 leading companies, non-profit organizations, and AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums working together to reduce, and eventually eliminate, the illegal trade of wildlife and wildlife products. WTA works with a variety of partners whose active engagement is essential to the success of the WTA goals.


Founded in 1924, theAssociation of Zoos and Aquariums is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of zoos and aquariums in the areas of conservation, animal welfare, education, science, and recreation. AZA is the accrediting body for the top zoos and aquariums in the United States and 12 other countries. Look for theAZA accreditation logo whenever you visit a zoo or aquarium as your assurance that you are supporting a facility dedicated to providing excellent care for animals, a great experience for you, and a better future for all living things.The AZA is a leader in saving species and your link to helping animals all over the world.