Silver Spring, MD (October 6, 2020) – Today, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) is announcing the decision by its independent Accreditation Commission (the Commission) subsequent to review of the recent inspection report regarding Safari West. In a virtual hearing, held on Friday, October 1, 2021, the Commission voted to deny accreditation. Following the hearing, Dan Ashe, AZA President and CEO, issued the following statement:
“It is always disappointing when AZA loses a member, especially a long-time member like Safari West. But AZA membership is conditioned on adherence to our accreditation standards – the global “gold standard” for modern aquariums and zoos – and our independent Accreditation Commission has determined that Safari West has failed to uphold those standards.
“The Commission noted serious concerns with veterinary practices and care, and acquisition and disposition of animals. I am hopeful that the owners and leadership at Safari West are taking these matters seriously. Some positive changes were noted, and noteworthy, but the Commission felt that additional time and effort will be required to fully meet AZA accreditation standards.
“To Safari West employees, we acknowledge your disappointment. Your professionalism and commitment will be crucial to regaining accreditation and we do hope to see Safari West and you back within our community.
“Although we are sad at losing a member, we believe this exemplifies what distinguishes AZA accreditation, helping earn its reputation as the global ‘gold standard' for modern zoos and aquariums. In the past five years, ten facilities have failed AZA’s accreditation process. Large and small, zoo and aquarium, internationally famous and locally loved, all AZA members are accountable to our standards. If they do not uphold them, they will not be accredited.”
Safari West was first granted certification as an AZA Related Facility in 1988 and maintained that membership until they applied for and were granted accreditation in 2010. They were granted accreditation again in 2015. The inspection and today’s hearing were to have occurred in 2020, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, AZA-accredited facilities were granted a one-year stay as it was unsafe for inspectors to travel.
Safari West now has 30 days to appeal the Commission’s decision to the AZA Executive Committee. The Executive Committee must decide within 45 days of its receipt whether to grant the appeal. If an appeal is granted, it will be heard by the AZA Board of Directors at its next regularly scheduled meeting. The AZA Board can choose to uphold or overturn the Commission’s decision. If the denial is upheld, Safari West will be eligible to apply for AZA accreditation again in September 2022.
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 Accreditation Commission at a formal hearing, after which accreditation is granted, tabled, or denied.
Each facility undergoes 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.
There are currently 241 AZA-accredited facilities and 15 AZA-certified related facility members throughout the U.S. and 12 other countries. For a complete list of currently accredited AZA facilities, please visit https://www.aza.org/current-accreditation-list.
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.
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