ABOVE: Everland Zoo. Photo courtesy Korea Tourism Organization.
Twice a year, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) independent Accreditation Commission (the Commission) reviews accreditation applications from the best aquariums, nature centers, science centers, and zoos in the world. Most recently, the Commission examined a record-breaking 36 accreditation applications during the AZA Annual Conference in New Orleans, La. As a result of these rigorous assessments, AZA has announced the accreditation of the following 31 facilities, including three new facilities:
Assiniboine Park Zoo, Canada
Binder Park Zoo, Mich.
Bronx Zoo/WCS, N.Y.
Butterfly Pavilion, Colo.
Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, Ohio
Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, Ohio
Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo, Conn.
Dolphin Island, Singapore
Everland Zoo, South Korea [NEW]
Franklin Park Zoo, Mass.
Henry Vilas Zoo, Wis.
Idaho Falls Zoo at Tautphaus Park, Idaho
New York Aquarium/WCS, N.Y.
Philadelphia Zoo, Pa.
Potawatomi Zoo, Ind.
Roosevelt Park Zoo, N.D.
Saginaw Children’s Zoo, Mich.
S.E.A. Aquarium, Singapore
Saint Louis Zoo, Mo.
SEA LIFE Grapevine Aquarium, Texas
Sedgwick County Zoo, Kan.
Seoul Zoo, South Korea [NEW]
Staten Island Zoo, N.Y.
Steinhart Aquarium, Calif
Sunset Zoological Park, Kan.
Tracy Aviary, Utah
Utah’s Hogle Zoo, Utah
Walter D. Stone Memorial Zoo, Mass.
Woodland Park Zoo, Wash.
Zoo de Granby, Canada
ZooMontana, Mont. [NEW]
Two accreditation applications were denied, and three were tabled.
“AZA’s independent Accreditation Commission grants accreditation only to exceptional zoos and aquariums that have met or surpassed our rigorous, ever-evolving standards,” said Dan Ashe, President and CEO of AZA. “AZA-accredited facilities exemplify AZA’s mission of protecting wildlife and wild places by providing expert care to hundreds of thousands of animals, educating and inspiring millions of guests, and, in 2018, contributing over $231 million to field conservation efforts. I am proud of what our member facilities and their hard-working staffs contribute to our community of animal heroes.”
Each facility underwent a thorough review to make sure it has and will continue to meet ever-rising standards, which emphasize animal welfare and care, veterinary programs, conservation, education, and safety. AZA requires facilities to complete this rigorous accreditation process every five years to be members of the Association.
“AZA-accredited members are purposeful organizations dedicated to saving species and well regarded as centers of conservation and leaders in animal care and welfare,” said Peggy Sloan, Chief Animal Operations Officer at the John G. Shedd Aquarium, and Chair of the AZA Board of Directors. “Accreditation is not easy to achieve, and it is a testament to the dedication each facility has to the animals they care for and the community they serve.”
The accreditation process includes a detailed application and a meticulous on-site multiple-day inspection by an independent team of trained zoological professionals. The inspecting team observes all aspects of the facility’s operation, including animal welfare and well-being; veterinary care; keeper training; safety for visitors, staff, and animals; educational programs; conservation efforts; financial stability; risk management; governance; and guest services. Detailed reports from the inspection team and the facility alike are then thoroughly evaluated by the Commission. Finally, top officials are interviewed in person by the Commission at a formal hearing, after which accreditation is granted, tabled, or denied.
Demonstrating the stringency and independence of this process, and after a rigorous six-month examination and on-site inspection, the Commission decided to table applications for three currently accredited facilities. The reasons for tabling applications are varied, but in each case the Commission determines that the facility is capable of addressing the identified issues and meeting all accreditation standards within one year. A follow-up inspection is required at the end of that year, after which the Commission must either approve or deny the application. Each previously accredited facility for which an application is tabled remains a fully accredited member of AZA during this year-long period.
The Commission denied accreditation applications from two facilities. These facilities have a limited period in which to appeal the Commission’s decision. Any facility that is denied may reapply after one year if it has thoroughly redressed the reasons for denial.
There are currently 239 AZA-accredited facilities and 15 AZA-certified related facility members throughout the U.S. and in 11 other countries.
The Commission will next meet to review accreditation applications in Spring 2020 in Palm Springs, Calif. For a full list of facilities applying for AZA accreditation, please visit https://www.aza.org/upcoming-reviews. For a complete list of currently accredited AZA-facilities, please visit https://www.aza.org/current-accreditation-list.