As the fog cleared and a brisk morning settled in last week, the Sacramento Zoo welcomed accreditation inspectors from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Accreditation Commission. The Accreditation Commission and consists of leaders in animal management, zoo operations, and zoo veterinary medicine from around the country who have many years of experience Accredited zoos go thru this re-accreditation process every five years. However, each year the “bar” is raised. So in essence, the Sacramento Zoo staff starts preparing for the next accreditation after the current inspection ends!
As we came into this inspection … cleaning, upgrading, painting, crunching numbers, striving for better, and checking things off the list were daily occurrences for months. We were ready, it was time for the AZA accreditation inspection. Only those zoos and aquariums that meet these highest standards can become members of, and accredited by, the AZA.
“AZA accreditation is the gold standard among modern zoological parks and aquariums, and our independent Commission ensures we only award that honor to the best facilities in the world,” said President and CEO of AZA, Dan Ashe. “Each of the 186 million visitors to AZA-accredited facilities can be assured they are supporting facilities providing the best animal care and that are actively engaged in wildlife conservation.”
Zoo staff took pride in showing off all the hard work that happens at the Sacramento Zoo. The team of inspectors evaluated every facet of the animals here – exhibits, fences, kitchens, veterinary care, records, conservation actions and support, enrichment, social groupings, animal safety, nutrition, operant conditioning, and more. In addition, they examined all the non-animal aspects as well – education programs, human safety, guest services, finances, governing authority, community support, security, staff training, etc. All this and more to make sure that we meet AZA’s standards After three days of interviews and inspections the team collected all the information they had gathered and headed back to their respective zoos.
Now begins the long wait. The Accreditation Commission will meet in the spring to review the Sacramento Zoo’s accreditation application, inspection report, and supporting documents.
The Sacramento community should take pride in the fact that the Sacramento Zoo has been continuously accredited since 1979. AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums are constantly evolving and standards are continuously being raised. AZA accreditation provides a critical stamp of approval to an organization that sets it apart from the many other animal facilities available to the public. Fewer than 10 percent of the approximately 2,800 animal exhibitors licensed by the USDA pass the rigorous AZA-accreditation standards. AZA zoos and aquariums provide $160 million in support of conservation projects every year and draw 181 million visitors annually—attendance greater than the NFL, NHL, and MLB combined. Achieving this standard is a source of pride for both staff and the community.