The Montreal Biodome returns following extensive renovations.
Silver Spring, MD (November 11, 2021) – Over the past three weeks, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) independent Accreditation Commission (the Commission) met virtually, three times, 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 accredited and five were denied, including four longstanding members and one new applicant.
The following facilities were granted accreditation, including one new facility:
Akron Zoological Park, Ohio
Albuquerque Biological Park, N.M.
Central Park Zoo, New York, N.Y.
Cheyenne Mountain Zoological Park, Colorado Springs, Colo.
Como Park Zoo and Conservatory, St. Paul, Minn.
Cosley Zoo, Wheaton, Ill.
Indianapolis Zoological Society, Ind.
John Ball Zoo, Grand Rapids, Mich.
Kansas City Zoo, Mo.
Lee G. Simmons Wildlife Safari Park, Ashland, Neb.
Lehigh Valley Zoo, Schnecksville, Pa.
[NEW] Montréal Biodôme, Space for Life, Québec, Canada
National Aviary, Pittsburgh, Pa.
North Carolina Zoo, Asheboro, N.C.
Prospect Park Zoo, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Queens Zoo, N.Y.
Riverbanks Zoo and Garden, Columbia, S.C.
Santa Fe College Teaching Zoo, Gainesville, Fla.
SEA LIFE Charlotte-Concord Aquarium, Concord, N.C.
Sequoia Park Zoo, Eureka, Calif.
Western North Carolina Nature Center, Asheville, N.C.
ZOOAMERICA North American Wildlife Park, Hersey, Pa.
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.
“The communities where these 22 zoos and aquariums are located should be proud their local aquarium, zoo or nature center is among the best zoological facilities in the world,” said AZA President and CEO, Dan Ashe. “The process to receive AZA accreditation is rigorous, and continues to include ever-increasing standards to ensure that the animals’ best interests are always first and foremost. We are excited and proud to have these top-notch zoos and aquariums as AZA members.”
Reflecting both the rigor of AZA’s standards, and the independence of its accreditation process, the Commission denied accreditation to two longstanding members, and one new applicant: Chahinkapa Zoo, in Wahpeton, N.D.; Erie Zoo in Erie, Pa.; and Montgomery Zoo, in Montgomery, Ala. As existing members, Chahinkapa and Erie have 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 appeal should be considered by the full AZA board of directors at its next regularly scheduled meeting. The AZA board can overturn or modify Commission decisions, although it is rare for them to do so. If the denial is upheld, each facility will be eligible to apply for AZA accreditation again in September 2022, and the earliest they could regain accreditation would be March-April, 2023.
Earlier in October, the Commission announced its decision to deny AZA accreditation to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, in Ohio, and the Safari West Wildlife Preserve, in Santa Rosa, Calif. Both facilities have appealed the Commission’s decision. All facilities retain their accredited status until appeal decisions are final.
“Overall, these hearings and Commission decisions clearly demonstrate the rigor and independence of the AZA accreditation process. Our standards are comprehensive and our process is thorough, objective and independent. Large or small, zoo or aquarium, membership is measured against commitment to excellence—to the “gold standard” for a modern zoological facility,” Ashe continued. “We wish all these facilities well, and hope they will reapply for accreditation when they are ready and eligible. Several have already inquired about joining our Pathway Toward Membership program.”
There are currently 242 AZA-accredited facilities and 14 AZA-certified related facility members throughout the U.S. and in 12 other countries. For a complete list of currently 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.