For Release: March 17, 2004
Contact: Peper Long 202-673-0206
National Zoo Receives 5-Year Accreditation from American Zoo and Aquarium Association
The Smithsonian's National Zoo today was granted a full five-year accreditation from the American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA). The accreditation means the National Zoo has met or exceeded the AZA's standards, which include all aspects of operations, management and animal care.
In March 2003, the AZA "tabled" the National Zoo's accreditation, instead of renewing it for five years. The decision to table gave the National Zoo one year of continued accreditation, and the opportunity to address the AZA's concerns and recommendations for improvement.
During the past year, the National Zoo took swift action to improve facilities; hire new talent; expand staff training; increase the animal collection; and boost science in the exhibits and public programs.
By granting today's full accreditation, which continues until September 2008, the AZA confirmed the National Zoo had resolved all prior concerns.
"I am extremely proud of the Zoo staff effort, and I appreciate the strong support from Congress and the Smithsonian during the past year," said Lucy Spelman, Zoo director. "We set up an action plan for accreditation and, working together, we met every target. The AZA's decision points to the fact that the National Zoo today is different and much improved from the Zoo of one year ago."
The accreditation report noted the following "points of particular achievement" since March 2003:
Out of approximately 2,600 facilities licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as animal exhibitors, less than 10 percent carry an AZA accreditation.
Every five years, all AZA accredited zoos in the United States are reviewed in order to maintain their accreditation. Even those zoos that successfully renew their accreditation receive a list of items and issues the AZA thinks will improve their institutions.
The AZA noted two new items in the 2004 accreditation report:
Delays in hiring and purchasing at some levels…"bureaucratic challenges."
In the past, filling positions was sometimes delayed because a standard vacancy announcement was used to fill all keeper positions, which yielded many applications from candidates who didn't have the required experience. This past year, the Zoo began tailoring position descriptions to fit the vacancy, which should reduce the time spent on recruiting, ranking and selecting applicants. Since January, six permanent keepers have been hired.
Continuing problems with rodents.
A new four-month contract with outside vendors was issued in March, specifically targeted to rodent control; the contract will supplement in-house pest management activities. The Zoo's Integrated Pest Management (IPM) specialist has been actively working to rodent-proof buildings and exhibits, replace trashcans throughout the park with rodent-proof cans, and reduce food spillage. The IPM specialist, working with animal-care staff, recently approved several pesticides for use in select areas.