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:

Operations: Craig Piper

Craig Piper, Director of City Zoos & Director of Central Park Zoo, Wildlife Conservation Society

Craig completed his undergraduate and graduate degrees in Architecture and Zoology from the University of Michigan and further graduate study at The Georgia Institute of Technology. While in graduate school at Michigan, Craig was first introduced to zoo careers when asked to assist the Detroit Zoo with master planning and conceptual design for an elephant exhibit.  This led to internships at the Detroit Zoo and Cleveland MetroParks Zoo.  Prior to joining the Wildlife Conservation Society in 2013, Craig worked for 12 years at Zoo Atlanta followed by 16 years at the Denver Zoo. He has held positions in animal care, education, research, exhibit design/construction, and administration.

Craig has been an active participant in AZA throughout his career, serving on the AZA Board of Directors and Ethics Board. Craig is also Chair of the AZA’s Accreditation Commission.  He has been an accreditation inspector since 2003. He firmly believes that the accreditation process serves to strengthen every member institution and our profession as a whole, and he finds the hard work associated with being an accreditation inspector to be highly rewarding.

Animal Welfare, Care and Management: Rich Toth

Rich Toth, Managing Director & VP, Audubon Nature Institute Downtown Facilities

With a passion for animals and exceptional management skills, Rich Toth joined the aquarium world following his graduation from Texas A&M University with a degree in Marine Biology. His first aquarist position was at the Texas State Aquarium, and he later joined the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas in New Orleans as senior aquarist. His leadership abilities and knowledge led to him being appointed Vice President and Managing Director of the Audubon Nature Institute’s downtown facilities in 2014.  Focusing on conservation, community partnerships, financial stability, and customer service, Rich has made significant contributions to the overall success of those facilities.

Audubon’s sustainability and rescue programs are a specific focus of his efforts, and he strives to educate the community about the impact humans have on the environment.  His desire to ensure a future with wildlife for generations to come has fueled Rich’s personal mission to create conservation awareness in everyone he encounters.

Rich is an active participant in AZA as a Professional Fellow. He began serving as an AZA accreditation inspector in 2001 and was first appointed to the Accreditation Commission in 2017.

Veterinary Care: Nancy Carpenter, DVM

Nancy Carpenter, DVM, Retired, Directorof Animal Health, Utah's Hogle Zoo

Growing up in Topeka, Kansas, the Topeka Zoo exposed Dr. Carpenter to elephants, hippos and giraffes from an early age.  She knew early on that she wanted to become a zoo veterinarian.  She began her zoo career after completing the “Teaching Zoo” program at Santa Fe Community College in 1982.  Since receiving her DVM from the University of Florida in 1993, Dr. Carpenter has worked at the Houston Zoo, Jacksonville Zoo, Topeka Zoo and the National Aquarium in Baltimore.  Most recently, she served as the Director of Animal Health at Utah’s Hogle Zoo.

During her tenure at the Hogle Zoo she was part of the design team for the renovation and build of the zoo’s veterinary hospital, the first LEED gold building at the zoo.  Following a passion for nutrition, Dr. Carpenter received a Master’s degree in Nutritional Sciences in 2018 from the University of Utah. 

Dr. Carpenter has served the Association of Zoos and Aquariums in a variety of ways. As a Veterinary Advisor, Nancy has worked with the Pallas Cat SSP, Howler Monkey SSP and Snow Leopard SSP. She has also served as a member of the Animal Health Committee.  Although she retired at the beginning of 2022, Dr. Carpenter is still passionate about ensuring the high standards of the AZA and has subsequently continued on as a veterinary accreditation inspector, something that she has enjoyed doing since 2003.

Related Information:

Past Inspectors of the Year

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