We owe a debt of gratitude to every volunteer Accreditation Inspector and to our member zoos and aquariums that encourage them to participate. Many thanks to all of the Accreditation Inspectors who served during the most recent accreditation cycle.

Among them are many talented individuals who consistently go above and beyond the call of duty -- our Accreditation Inspectors of the Year.

The Inspector of the Year AwardZoo Inspector

This award, first presented in 2003, originated as a means of recognizing AZA Accreditation Inspectors who, throughout their years of service, have donated their time to a large number of inspections, and/or whose work has consistently been of exceptional quality. The award is presented annually to three individuals whose selection is based on those criteria.

Serving as an accreditation inspector is a difficult task and is critically important to the integrity of the accreditation process. The enormous amount of time and effort required in preparing for and performing these inspections is astronomical. The Accreditation Commission, and AZA, are sincerely thankful for the contribution of time and expertise that all of our inspectors make to the success of our accreditation process.

Here are AZA's Inspectors of the Year for 2021:

Animal Management and Husbandry: Amos Morris

Amos Morris, Executive Director, Milwaukee County Zoo

Amos Morris’ 34-year zoo career started when he became a Zookeeper at the St. Louis Zoo after graduating from the University of Missouri with a Bachelor of Science in Animal Science. Since that time, he has worked his way up to the zoo director position, first at Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Garden and, as of August, 2021, he is now the Executive Director of the Milwaukee County Zoo.

Amos has been an active participant in AZA throughout his career, serving as a member of the Elephant TAG/SSP Management Group, Vice-Chair of the Small Carnivore TAG, and the Studbook Keeper for Wolverine. Amos is also a past member of both the AZA Ethics Board and Board of Directors. 

Currently, Amos is a member of the Tiger SSP Management Group and the AZA Accreditation Commission. He has been an accreditation inspector since 2007.

Operations: Chris Pfefferkorn

Chris Pfefferkorn, President & CEO, Birmingham Zoo

With over 30 years of progressive zoological experience, Chris Pfefferkorn has worked at several AZA-accredited zoos throughout his career. He has served as the Senior Vice President of the Birmingham Zoo, Deputy Director of Living Collections at Oregon Zoo, General Curator at Ellen Trout Zoo, and a Zookeeper at the San Antonio Zoo. He began his zoo career at the Glen Oak Zoo after earning a Bachelor of Science in Biology at Eureka College.

Chris has spent his career dedicated to animal welfare and conservation. His work with the Chipangali Large Carnivore Project in Zimbabwe focused on Leopard and Brown Hyena conservation near the Matopos National Park. Chris also helped Chipangali to establish the Environmental Programs Involving Children (EPIC Kids) education program for rural children to teach them about the value of the natural world around them.

Chris also has a passion for professional development, and has completed numerous AZA courses, including the AZA Executive Leadership Development Program. He has served as an accreditation inspector for over 20 years, often participating as the Team Chair. He strongly believes in  AZA’s accreditation process and its ability to assure that all members are providing the highest standards of animal care, welfare, education, and conservation.

Veterinary: Joe Smith

Joe Smith, DVM, Vice President, the Wilds

Joe Smith grew up in Louisiana, where he developed a deep appreciation for nature and biodiversity by playing in the creeks and hiking through the woods. A passion for conservation soon followed and Joe pursued a career in Veterinary Medicine after earning his veterinary degree at Louisiana State University. Following several training opportunities at various AZA-accredited facilities, Joe moved to the Midwest to serve as the Director of Animal Health at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo (FWCZ). An interest in coaching others and achieving success through teams led Joe on a path in leadership and administration. In 2015, Joe shifted from clinical medicine to be the Director of Animal Programs at FWCZ. After 18 years in Fort Wayne, Joe accepted an executive leadership position as Vice President of The Wilds. He is excited to use his skills to be a part of one of North America’s largest wildlife conservation facilities.

Joe has served the Association of Zoos and Aquariums in a variety of ways. As a veterinary advisor, Joe has worked with the Orangutan SSP, Monotreme and Marsupial TAG, Passerine TAG, Blue-crowned Laughingthrush GSMP, and Bali Mynah SSP. Joe is currently the Treasurer for the SAFE North American Songbird program. He is proud to have successfully completed AZA’s Executive Leadership Development Program in 2019-2020. Joe has been an accreditation inspector since 2007. Joe believes the AZA accreditation process is critical to the future success of zoos, and he looks forward to continuing to support this important quality-assurance program.

Related Information:

Past Inspectors of the Year

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