Mar 31, 2019 · Uncategorized
Mar 31, 2019 · Uncategorized
Our application for accreditation has been submitted, our inspection team has been selected and the only thing left to do is set the dates of the onsite inspection. At this point we anticipate that our inspection will be during the month of June. So how does the AZA accreditation process work? Here’s the breakdown, as AZA explains it:
“First, AZA carefully selects the expert Accreditation Commission members who evaluate each zoo and aquarium. These experts are leaders in their fields and have many years of experience and education in zoo and aquarium operations, animal management, and veterinary medicine. There are twelve experts on the Accreditation Commission.”
“The Accreditation Commission evaluates every zoo or aquarium to make sure it meets AZA’s standards for animal management and care, including living environments, social groupings, health, and nutrition. We also make sure that animals are provided with enrichment, which stimulates each animal’s natural behavior and provides variety in their daily routine. The Accreditation Commission also evaluates the veterinary program, involvement in conservation and research, education programs, safety policies and procedures, security, physical facilities, guest services, and the quality of the institution’s staff. And because a zoo or aquarium needs a strong foundation in order to continue to meet high standards, accreditation also evaluates each institution’s finances, its governing authority, and its support organization. In other words, we look at everything!”
“Every candidate for accreditation fills out a detailed questionnaire which includes copies of their policies, procedures, records, lists, and reports. The application takes many months to complete and six months to study and evaluate. After the Accreditation Commission studies the application, a team of inspectors visit the zoo or aquarium in person. Each team includes at least one veterinarian along with animal and operations experts. The inspectors spend several long days at the zoo or aquarium visiting every area, interviewing staff, checking records, and examining the physical facilities and the animal collection. The inspectors then write a detailed report about everything they saw and evaluated and submit it to the Accreditation Commission.”
“The Accreditation Commission meets twice a year to consider all candidates for accreditation. They examine the application, the supporting documents submitted by the zoo or aquarium, the inspection team’s report, and any information and comments received from outside organizations and individuals. The zoo or aquarium’s senior officials must go to the Accreditation Commission’s meeting to answer questions. Finally, the Accreditation Commission decides whether or not to grant accreditation. It doesn’t matter if an institution is new or was previously accredited, standards are high and not every candidate receives accreditation.”
“AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums are constantly evolving and standards are continuously being raised. Each zoo or aquarium must keep up with these changes to remain AZA-accredited. And to prove it, they must go through the entire accreditation process every five years. AZA believes that nothing is more important than assuring the highest standards of animal care and our accreditation process does just that!” (Accreditation Basics, AZA Website)
The Sedgwick County Zoo is proud to be accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). Institutions complete the full accreditation process every five years. 2019 is an AZA accreditation year for SCZ, and there will be a lot of work going into that – I’ll keep you posted on all the details as we go along. First, it’s important to understand the AZA accreditation standard.
All public animal exhibits in the United States are required to be licensed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Of the 2300+ USDA licensed facilities only 10% (233) are accredited by the AZA. AZA accreditation is considered by zoo professionals worldwide to be the ‘gold standard’ of accreditation processes. This distinction is due to the incredibly high standards and stringent requirements that AZA has established.
So, what is the purpose of AZA accreditation? The AZA accreditation standard reads:
“AZA accredited zoos and aquariums are complicated operations with important goals. The highest goals of AZA accreditation include exemplary animal care and welfare, and inspiring guest engagement through effective education and conservation. AZA accreditation standards and requirements represent decades of modernization utilizing science, experience, and an unrelenting resolve to create a positive and lasting impact on guests, and to conserve our world’s wild animals and wild places.
“The AZA Accreditation Program provides all zoos and aquariums the opportunity to examine, meet, or exceed the highest standards in the profession. The accreditation process combines internal (stakeholder) and external (peer-review) top to bottom assessment, resulting in the most scrutinized, specialized and dynamic organizations in the world dedicated to animal care, welfare and well-being, public engagement, education, and conservation and science. Institutions successfully accredited by AZA must continuously demonstrate excellence in all areas of operations and regularly adapt to new and evolving standards.” (Preamble, 2018, The Accreditation Standards and Related Policies)
We’ll bring you more details on the application process and the onsite inspection next month.
AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums are more important today than they have ever been. In an era of nature disconnect in our society, we have the opportunity to connect people, especially children, with the animals we care for to create empathy, concern and to foster the development of pro-environmental behaviors. Research shows that children who have an appreciation for nature are more likely to take conservation action.
Our role extends beyond the front gate of the Zoo. We actively support wildlife conservation programs here at home and around the world. Our support is through financial contributions as well as staff participation. We have staff that regularly assists with field conservation efforts for Black-footed Ferret in northwestern Kansas, endangered birds on the Mariana Islands in the Pacific Ocean and rare vipers in the mountains of Armenia.
As conservation leaders we understand that creating a safer world for wildlife and wild places is directly related to the conservation of natural and man-made resources. With that in mind, our business operations here at the Zoo need to incorporate sustainable practices that conserve resources. We need to demonstrate our commitment to wildlife conservation by “walking the talk” and modeling ways that our guests can also become part of the solution for the environmental problems contributing to the decline of wildlife worldwide.
Green practices are being implemented throughout the Zoo and we will continue doing so as a regular part of our business operations moving forward. We have started installing bottle refill stations and energy efficient hand dryers in locations around the Zoo. In our Beastro restaurant you will now find eco-friendly plates, cups and flatware. Over the coming months you will also see new recycling and waste receptacles being installed throughout the centrum of the Zoo. These new bins are made of recycled milk jugs. Some of the changes we’re implementing are things you can do at home as well. Together we can create a sustainable future for people, wildlife and wild places here in Kansas and around the world.
This is just the beginning, stay tuned for updates on our conservation initiatives here at the Zoo!