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AZA Accreditation Report

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AZA Accreditation Report

Animal welfare is our top priority at the Sacramento Zoo: the animals in our care deserve the very best we can provide – every single day. It is because of this simple yet defining responsibility that we look to the future of the Sacramento Zoo, a future that will require that we meet (and work to exceed) the evolving welfare and conservation needs of the wildlife in our care.

Given the recent news of the zoo’s need to potentially relocate, and the inevitable questions this raises, we want to be entirely transparent with our community regarding the zoo’s vision for the future and why that vision is so important to the animals, as well as to conservation, education and the guest experience. It is for these reasons that we are releasing, in its entirety, our most recent Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Accreditation Report, which evaluates our practices and policies, as well as identifies concerns and standout achievements. We have only redacted the report to the extent necessary to protect employee privacy.

In November 2017, the Sacramento Zoo underwent an in-depth, multi-day AZA inspection. The inspection team consisted of three representatives, each of whom maintain AZA accreditation at their own facilities and are acutely attuned to the needs of the animals and the objectives of AZA. Every AZA-accredited institution must pass a rigorous inspection every five years to maintain accreditation. In late March 2018, the Sacramento Zoo received the final review and hearing regarding its inspection. While the zoo passed its accreditation and received many accolades, several opportunities were identified, and suggestions correspondingly made, to improve zoo facilities, animal care, animal husbandry, animal enrichment and infrastructure. We have made every effort to correct each concern outlined in the report, in many cases before the inspectors had even departed from the zoo. There are certain issues, however, that we simply cannot correct without a tremendous amount of help from our community.

Most significantly, we cannot change our limited footprint and aging infrastructure. We have made many necessary updates and have plans to facilitate other changes where possible in the months and years to come. However, the simple fact is that a number of exhibits are in need of updating, and much of the zoo needs renovation to stay in line with AZA’s evolving standards and requirements.

As noted in the report, several exhibits require replacement or renovation. Much of this required renovation is impossible given the constraints of our 14-acre footprint and the age of the zoo’s most basic infrastructure. Detailed in the report are the following areas of concern, which are listed below along with a description of how we have responded to these concerns to date:

  • Big cats
    • ISSUE: Moving forward the zoo needs to expand big cat habitats
      • (Zoo Action: PLANNED LION HABITAT EXPANSION TO INCLUDE FORMER TIGER EXHIBIT, DOUBLING ON-EXHIBIT SPACE)
      • (Zoo Action: TRANSFER OF TIGER SPECIES)
      • (Zoo Action: PLANNING ZOO RELOCATION FOR FUTURE EXPANSION NEEDS)
  • Herp habitats in Reptile House
    • ISSUE: Habitats both on and off display were lacking in choice and complexity
      • (Zoo Action: UPGRADED OR RENOVATED ALL REFERENCED HABITATS BY EXPANDING HOLDINGS, ADDING SUBSTRATE AND ALLOWING FOR MORE DIVERSITY AND CHOICE)
  • Hornbills
    • ISSUE: Birds displayed outdoors in Behlen cages that don’t allow the birds to receive direct sunlight
      • (Zoo Action: AVIARIES HAVE BEEN TAKEN DOWN AND BIRDS TRANSFERRED TO OTHER INSTITUTIONS)
  • Mongoose lemur
    • ISSUE: Exhibits are outdated and made of chain-link
      • (Zoo Action: RENOVATING FORMER FRUIT BAT EXHIBIT FOR THREE OF THE MONGOOSE LEMURS – PLANNED MOVE TO NEW EXHIBIT – APPROXIMATELY OCTOBER 19, 2018.)
      • (Additional Action: CONTINUED WORK WITH AZA SPECIES SURVIVAL PLAN (SSP) COORDINATOR TO RELOCATE REMAINING TWO ANIMALS)
  • Interpretive Center
    • ISSUE: Some animals’ enclosures may be too small for the amount of time spent in them. They do not offer choice or complexity
      • (Zoo Action: INCREASED ENCLOSURE SIZE, ADDED COMPLEXITY AND CHOICE)
    • ISSUE: Enclosure locks left open (doors closed and secured without locks engaged when staff present during work day)
      • (Zoo Action: A NEW POLICY WAS IMMEDIATELY PUT IN PLACE AND THE ISSUE WAS RESOLVED WHILE ACCREDITATION COMMITTEE WAS ON GROUNDS)
  • Enrichment
    • ISSUE: Some inconsistencies and a lack of emphasis on cognitive enrichment, record-keeping or evaluation
      • (Zoo Action: DEVELOPED NEW ENRICHMENT PROGRAM STRATEGY TO INCLUDE SPECIES EVALUATIONS, DOCUMENTATION, EVALUATION AND IMPROVE RECORD KEEPING)
      • (Additional Action: WITHIN THE INTERPRETIVE CENTER, IN ADDITION TO NON-RECORDED OUTSIDE TIME, STAFF CREATED A REGULAR SCHEDULE TO TRACK EACH INDIVIDUAL ANIMAL’S TIME SPENT OUTSIDE AND DURING PROGRAMS)
      • (Additional Action: DEVELOPED AND IMPLEMENTED A NEW ANIMAL ENRICHMENT PROGRAM ZOO-WIDE)
      • (Additional Action: CREATED AN ENRICHMENT COMMITTEE THAT FOCUSES ON ALL ASPECTS OF ANIMAL ENRICHMENT)
  • Additional animal holding areas
    • Aardvark & Gibbons
      • ISSUE: Lack of complexity to off-exhibit holding that would be a concern without 24-hour exhibit access
        • (Zoo Action: NO CHANGE TO HUSBANDRY PRACTICES – 24 HOUR EXHIBIT ACCESS CONTINUES, ADDITIONAL EXHIBIT IMPROVEMENTS IMPLEMENTED)
  • Safety and security
    • ISSUE: During inspection, when questioned, select staff unsure of appropriate response procedures:
      • (Zoo Action: ADJUSTED AND INCREASED FOCUS DURING MONTHLY SAFETY TRAININGS ON EMERGENCY RESPONSE BY STAFF MEMBERS. INCREASED FOCUS ON STAFF EMERGENCY RESPONSE DURING DEPARTMENT SECTION MEETINGS. SAFETY PROTOCOLS WERE ADDED TO ALL-STAFF MEETINGS TO PROVIDE OPPORTUNITIES FOR QUESTIONS AND CLARIFICATIONS)

In addition to the above listed issues, the general concern addressed in the zoo’s 2018 Accreditation Report indicated that many of the zoo’s older exhibits do not represent modern zoological practices; areas require major renovation or replacement if they are to keep up with modern facilities and AZA standards. The visiting Accreditation Committee believed that many of the current facilities will need to be significantly renovated or completely replaced.

It is with this overall concern in mind that the Sacramento Zoo has determined we will need a new, larger facility with modern exhibits to continue to meet and exceed the needs of the animals in our care.  

Download the report, here:
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