AZA grants accreditation to 23 facilities and announces one-year stay for all members

AZA, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, has granted accreditation to 23 facilities, as well as announcing a one-year extension for all members due to COVID-19.

AZA is pleased to announce that, after meeting virtually, its accreditation commission has agreed to grant accreditation to 23 facilities. The association has also announced a one-year stay for all its members, due to the current situation with COVID-19.

Due to the cancellation of AZA’s mid-year meeting, the Accreditation Commission met virtually to review new applications and approved 23 facilities. This includes two new institutions.

Newly accredited facilities

The list of approved facilities is as follows:

  • Abilene Zoo, Tex.
  • Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Ariz.
  • Atlantis The Palm, Dubai, UAE [NEW]
  • Caldwell Zoo, Tex.
  • Discovery Cove, Fla.
  • Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Fla.
  • Honolulu Zoo, Hawaii [NEW]
  • Jacksonville Zoo, Fla.
  • Landry’s Downtown Aquarium Denver, Colo.
  • Landry’s Downtown Aquarium Houston, Tex.
  • Lubee Bat Conservancy, Fla. (an AZA certified related facility)
  • Mystic Aquarium, Conn.
  • San Diego Zoo, Calif.
  • San Diego Zoo Safari Park, Calif.
  • Santa Barbara Zoo, Calif.
  • SeaWorld Orlando, Fla.
  • SeaWorld San Diego, Calif.
  • St. Augustine Alligator Farm, Fla.
  • Virginia Living Museum, Va.
  • Zoo Atlanta, Ga.
  • Zoo Knoxville, Tenn.
  • Zoo Miami, Fla.
  • ZooTampa at Lowry Park, Fla.

The accreditation of Atlantis, The Palm in Dubai marks the addition of a 13th country to AZA’s membership roster.

“To say this accreditation cycle is unprecedented would be an understatement,” says Dan Ashe, President and CEO of AZA.

“COVID-19 and the necessary precautions associated with the virus have temporarily closed nearly all of AZA’s members in the United States. Abiding by our accreditation standards is an everyday proposition, however, and we want to recognize the significant achievement of these facilities.”

A thorough process

The process includes a thorough review of each zoo or aquarium, ensuring that the association’s high standards are met. This includes proper animal welfare and care, as well as veterinary programs, conservation, education, and safety. Facilities must reapply every five years.

“AZA accreditation signifies a facility is meeting or exceeding the ‘gold standard’ for zoological facilities, as well as making significant contributions to the conservation of species at their facility and in the wild,” says Dr Christopher Kuhar, Executive Director of Cleveland Metroparks Zoo and chair of the AZA Board of Directors.

“AZA members are conservation organizations that seek to educate the next generation about the importance of protecting and preserving our natural world. Even in these times when most zoos and aquariums are closed, AZA members are continuing to find ways to make sure people can appreciate animals and nature.”

One-year extension

AZA has also announced that all members will be granted a one-year extension in their accreditation status.  For example, if a facility is up for accreditation in September 2020, they will now be up for accreditation in September 2021.

“Out of an abundance of caution, we have decided to postpone accreditation inspections for currently accredited AZA members,” says Jeff Wyatt, DVM, DACLAM, Environmental Justice Advocate at the Seneca Park Zoo and chair of the AZA Accreditation Commission.

“We need our members focused on providing the best care possible for their animals, while also assuring the health and safety of their staff. We could not, in good conscience, send our volunteer inspectors out facing so much uncertainty.”

However, the commission will continue to investigate any concerns raised about AZA members, undergoing site inspections if needed.

AZA recently released a statement, along with AAZV, the American Association of Zoo Veterinarians, after a tiger at New York’s Bronx Zoo tested positive for COVID-19.