National Zoo Receives Accreditation from Association of Zoos and Aquariums

September 26, 2008
News Release

The Smithsonian’s National Zoo has been awarded a five-year accreditation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. The accreditation certifies that the National Zoo has met or exceeded the AZA’s standards for animal care, veterinary programs, conservation, education and safety.

In the past five years, the National Zoo has undergone more than $100 million in capital improvements at its park in Washington, D.C., and at its 3,200-acre Conservation and Research Center in Front Royal, Va. Improvements include the opening of Kids’ Farm, Asia Trail and the expanded Fujifilm Giant Panda Habitat; exhibit refreshes and building maintenance at Small Mammal House, Great Ape House and Reptile Discovery Center; updating the Zoo’s fire safety infrastructure; and construction of an expanded and renovated elephant exhibit, Elephant Trails, set to open in 2011.

“The National Zoo has made enormous strides in the last five years,” said Director John Berry. “We are on a trajectory to making the National Zoo the finest zoo for our animals, visitors and staff. In keeping with the Smithsonian’s mission, we’re educating and inspiring our visitors to treasure our natural world.”

To receive accreditation, the National Zoo underwent a thorough investigation, submitting hundreds of pages of documents on zoo protocols, facilities, operations, finances and research activities as well as a four-day site inspection by leading zoo-industry experts. The AZA inspectors look at every aspect of a zoo’s operation—animal husbandry, veterinary programs, conservation and research programs, education programs, safety policies and procedures, security, physical facilities, guest services, and the quality of the institution’s staff. The inspectors also evaluate a zoo’s foundation—finances, its governing authority and its support organization.

To remain a member of AZA, the National Zoo must undergo this process every five years to ensure that it meets the association’s continually rising standards. The Zoo was first granted accreditation in 1977. In 2003, its accreditation was tabled citing funding and deferred maintenance issues and was fully restored in 2004 after the zoo addressed the association’s concerns.

AZA accreditation informs the public that a zoo or aquarium is providing animals with care that meets or exceeds is rigorous standards and typically lasts for five years.

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