AZA News Releases

Zoos and Aquariums Receive Prestigious AZA Accreditation during Spring 2017 Cycle

Humane Society of the United States calls AZA accreditation standards "strongest in the industry."

SILVER SPRING, Md. – 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. Most recently, the Commission reviewed 20 applications. AZA is proud to announce the accreditation of the following facilities:

  • Aquarium of the Bay; San Francisco, Calif.

  • Atlantis, Paradise Island; Atlantis, Bahamas

  • B. Bryan Preserve; Point Arena, Calif.

  • Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens; Sanford, Fla.

  • Dallas World Aquarium; Dallas, Texas

  • Dallas Zoo; Dallas, Texas

  • Living Desert Zoo & Gardens State Park; Carlsbad, N.M.

  • Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Gardens; Los Angeles, Calif.

  • Monterey Bay Aquarium; Monterey, Calif.

  • National Aquarium; Baltimore, Md.

  • North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher; Kure Beach, N.C.

  • North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores; Pine Knoll Shores, N.C.

  • North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island; Manteo, N.C.

  • Palm Beach Zoo; Palm Beach, Fla.

  • Parque Zoológico de León; León, Guanajuato, Mexico

  • Phoenix Zoo; Phoenix, Ariz.

  • Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay; Las Vegas, Nev.

  • South Carolina Aquarium; Charleston, S.C.

  • Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center; Virginia Beach, Va.


“AZA accreditation is the gold standard among modern zoological parks and aquariums, and our independent Commission ensures we only award that honor to the best facilities in the world,” said Dan Ashe, President and CEO of AZA. “Each of the 186 million visitors to AZA-accredited facilities can be assured they are supporting facilities providing the best animal care and that are actively engaged in wildlife conservation.”

Each facility underwent a thorough review to ensure it has and will continue to meet ever-rising standards, which include animal 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. 

The accreditation process includes a detailed application and a meticulous on-site 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; visitor services; and other areas. Finally, top officials are interviewed at a formal hearing of the Commission, after which accreditation is granted, tabled, or denied.  Any facility that is denied may reapply after one year.

The Commission denied accreditation to a facility that had held AZA accreditation previously: the Santa Ana Zoo in Santa Ana, Calif. Accreditation was denied because the zoo no longer met a number of AZA’s standards. Since the denial by the Commission, the city has taken steps to begin addressing the Commission’s concerns.

“It is heartening to see the City of Santa Ana step up to help the zoo make necessary improvements. Animal welfare is the number one concern of the Commission. We are hopeful, given time and attention toward improving the monkey habitats and other items identified during the inspection, that the Santa Ana Zoo will once again meet the standards necessary to rejoin the ranks of AZA members – the world’s elite zoos and aquariums,” said Ashe.

Over the past ten years, the Commission has accredited 245 facilities, with many being successfully accredited twice during that time span. The Commission has denied accreditation to 26 facilities. Most often, the denial of accreditation is a combination of a number of factors including a lack of modern zoological facilities, adequate financing, and appropriate staffing levels – all of which contribute to the overall well-being of animals.

“A serious, science-based accreditation program is vital to the health of the zoo and aquarium industry and to the animals at the center of these enterprises,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States. “The AZA standards are strongest in the industry by a country mile, and while they don’t answer every question related to the care of animals and the other operations of zoos, they provide an essential baseline that humane organizations, the public, and other key stakeholders value immensely.”

The Commission will next meet to review accreditation applications this Fall in Indianapolis. For a full list of facilities trying for AZA accreditation, please visit For a full list of currently accredited AZA-facilities, please visit

About AZA

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 eight 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

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