This effort was initially known as the Zoo and Aquarium All Hazards Preparedness, Response, and Recovery Fusion Center (ZAHP Fusion Center), but roots of the initiative go back to 2005 when a Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) strain H5N1 was smoldering in Southeast Asia and other parts of the world. While this zoonotic strain thankfully did not result in a human pandemic, the threat motivated the United Stated Department of Agriculture to enter into a cooperative agreement with Lincoln Park Zoo to create the “Zoo Animal Health Network”. This project focused on preparing the community for the possible emergence of HPAI by focusing on the following objectives:
- Conduct active surveillance of avian influenza in zoos.
- 345 birds representing 26 species were sampled over a year; no HPAI was detected during that time frame.
- Provide the zoological community with an Outbreak Management Plan to assist State and Federal regulatory officials with industry guidance to manage an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1 on zoo grounds.
- Provide updated Vaccination Guidance for zoological specimens should an appropriate vaccine be identified for use in zoos.
- Develop training modules “Influenzas of Non-Domestic Species” to educate the exotic animal industry on influenzas and basic Foreign Animal Disease (FAD) response.
- Facilitate dialogue between individual zoological institutions and appropriate State and Federal regulatory veterinarians, who would work together to manage an avian influenza outbreak.
The success of these projects resulted in continued collaborations between the exotic animal industry, State and Federal regulatory efforts, and other subject matter experts and paved the way for a larger all-hazards initiative. To “go big”, the ZAHP Fusion Center was created through a cooperative agreement between USDA and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).
The ZAHP Initiative
Initially known as the Zoo and Aquarium All Hazards Preparedness, Response, and Recovery (ZAHP) Fusion Center, the ZAHP initiative was formed in 2014 to bridge the gap between the exotic animal industry and the emergency management sector. In the intervening years ZAHP has worked to disseminate critical information on prevention, protection, mitigation, response, and recovery to zoos, aquariums, and other managed wildlife facilities while strengthening relationships with state, federal, and non-governmental response partners. Activities to date include:
- Provide regular updates to the community on topics relevant to preparedness, response, and recovery
- Conduct foreign animal disease preparedness meetings in each Veterinary Services district
- Create a series of All Hazards Contingency Planning Modules to go over the planning process for exotic animal facilities
- Create an interactive HPAI web exercise
- Develop Secure Zoo Strategy to guide facilities in developing a foreign animal disease response plan
- Administer microgrants to aid in preparedness efforts throughout the exotic animal industry
- Coordinate a series of regional preparedness meetings to discuss how the community can better coordinate with emergency management and each other to improve preparedness and response moving forward
As the Zoo and Aquarium All Hazards Partnership, ZAHP will continue ongoing projects and more with a renewed focus on increasing collaboration across the industry as a whole.