Silver Spring, Md. (April 27, 2022) – Last week, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) independent Accreditation Commission (the Commission) met to review applications for AZA accreditation.
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 by the Accreditation Commission at a formal hearing, after which accreditation is granted, extended for one year, or denied.
Of the accreditation applications considered during this cycle, 22 were previously accredited facilities, and one was a new applicant. There were also two applicants for certification who were also previously certified.
The approved applicants for AZA accreditation include:
The approved applicants for certification include:
Preparing a facility for the accreditation process takes a lot of work, and in 2020 AZA began a formal “Pathway Toward Membership” program to help interested organizations work toward accreditation with the help of a peer consultant or Coach. There are currently 25 facilities participating in the program, and this accreditation cycle saw the first Pathway participant receive accreditation — Marineland, in Florida.
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 as a condition of Association membership.
“Getting AZA accreditation is rigorous, and the standards continue to evolve, ensuring animal welfare remains at the forefront of our process,” said Dan Ashe, President and CEO of AZA. “Our standards are comprehensive, and our process is thorough, objective, and independent, with membership measured against a commitment to meeting the “gold standard” for a modern zoological facility. We are proud to welcome these exceptional zoos, aquariums, and related facilities as AZA members.”
Reflecting the rigor of AZA’s standards and the independence of its accreditation process, the Commission denied accreditation to Parque Zoológico de Leon, located in Leon, Mexico. As existing members, Parque Zoológico de Leon has 30 days to appeal the Commission’s decision to the AZA board of directors’ Executive Committee. If an appeal is received, the Executive Committee has 45 days to decide if the full AZA board of directors should consider the appeal at its next regularly scheduled meeting. The AZA board can overturn or modify Commission decisions, although it is rare to do so. If the denial is upheld, Parque Zoológico de Leon will be eligible to apply for AZA accreditation again in March 2023, and the earliest they could regain accreditation would be September 2023.
There are currently 239 AZA-accredited facilities and 14 AZA-certified related facility members throughout the U.S. and 12 other countries. For a complete list of accredited AZA facilities, please visit https://www.aza.org/current-accreditation-list.
You can learn more about the AZA Pathway Toward Membership program on the AZA website: https://www.aza.org/PTM-program
Founded in 1924, the Association 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 the AZA 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. To learn more, visit www.aza.org.