From the Desk of Dan Ashe

Exceptional AZA Zoos & Aquariums Win National Awards

It’s well-known that AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums provide the gold standard of animal care and welfare at their facilities.  We are constantly going above and beyond, raising our standards, doing more and better conservation and animal welfare, and improving our education, research, and veterinary programs.

Last month, USA Today recognized several of our facilities in their annual “10 Best: Readers Choice” as voted on by hundreds of thousands of readers. Our public clearly acknowledges AZA members as best-of-the-best. AZA-accredited aquariums and zoos dominated their categories. In fact, all ten finalists of the Best Zoo, Best Zoo Exhibit, and Best Aquarium competitions were AZA member facilities! I’d like to specially congratulate our winners for their well-deserved honor once again.

Best Zoo

  1. Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden - Cincinnati
  2. Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium - Omaha, Neb.
  3. Saint Louis Zoo - St. Louis
  4. Fort Worth Zoo - Fort Worth
  5. Columbus Zoo and Aquarium - Columbus, Ohio
  6. Cheyenne Mountain Zoo - Colorado Springs
  7. Riverbanks Zoo & Garden - Columbia, S.C.
  8. Memphis Zoo - Memphis
  9. Audubon Zoo - New Orleans
  10. Dallas Zoo - Dallas

Best Aquarium

  1. Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies - Gatlinburg, Tenn.
  2. The Florida Aquarium - Tampa
  3. Audubon Aquarium of the Americas - New Orleans
  4. Texas State Aquarium - Corpus Christi, Texas
  5. Mystic Aquarium - Mystic, Conn.
  6. Newport Aquarium - Newport, Ky.
  7. North Carolina Aquariums - Multiple Locations
  8. Vancouver Aquarium - Vancouver
  9. Tennessee Aquarium - Chattanooga, Tenn.
  10. Aquarium of the Pacific - Long Beach, Calif.

Best Zoo Exhibit

  1. Lied Jungle - Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium; the nation’s largest indoor rainforest!
  2. Reed Family Elephants of the Zambezi River Valley - Sedgwick County Zoo
  3. Judy and Jerry Kent Family Sea Lion Sound - Saint Louis Zoo
  4. Expedition Peru: Trek of the Andean Bear - Nashville Zoo
  5. Rocky Mountain Wild - Cheyenne Mountain Zoo
  6. African Savanna - Fort Worth Zoo
  7. Sanctuary Asia - Oklahoma City Zoo
  8. Centene Grizzly Ridge - Saint Louis Zoo
  9. Painted Dog Valley - Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden
  10. Simmons Hippo Outpost - Dallas Zoo

There’s more! Six of our accredited safari parks were voted as the Best Safari Park in the nation, with AZA-accredited Lee G. Simmons Conservation Park and Safari receiving the top honor for the second year in a row. Other top finalists included:  Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center, The Wilds, Fossil Rim Wildlife Center, Lion Country Safari, and Safari West. Congratulations!

Earning these honors from the public prove that AZA-accredited facilities world-class. In fact, only 10% of animal holding facilities in the US have achieved our rigorous accreditation standards.And our excellence is not limited to these fields; AZA-accredited aquariums and zoos have been nationally recognized for their creativity and engagement with guests, both on and off facility grounds.

Phoenix Zoo Billboard

AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums are among the most creative advertisers in out of home media (OOH).

Year after year, zoos and aquariums earn national recognition for billboards and other large-format displays.  On May 21, Phoenix Zoo and Florida Aquarium won OBIE Awards from the Out of Home Advertising Association of America (OAAA).

The Florida Aquarium also won an OBIE Award last year for its campaign promoting free admission on Mother’s Day weekend. The series of colorful, creative billboards depicted one-of-a-kind “flowers” using fish from the aquarium as the “petals,” to suggest visiting the aquarium on Mother’s Day versus other traditional Mother’s Day gifts.

Florida Aquarium advertisement of fish in a bouquet shape

Congratulations all!


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