The Smithsonian's National Zoological Park 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 Rock Creek Park facility in Washington, D.C., and at its 3,200-acre Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Va. Two major exhibits opened at the Rock Creek facility in the past year: American Trail and Elephant Trails, which was completed in March 2013 with the opening of the Elephant Community Center. In October 2012, SCBI and George Mason University formed the Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation, an undergraduate and graduate program that provides expertise in conservation theory, field methods and the human dimensions of conservation. Improvements at the Small Mammal House, Think Tank and Reptile Discovery Center include exhibit updates and building maintenance.
It's an honor that the Association of Zoos and Aquariums has recognized the hard work and dedication of our staff and operations," said Zoo Director Dennis Kelly. "Through collaborations with our AZA colleagues, the National Zoo has made tremendous strides in the ways we manage and care for our animals. On a global scale, our partnerships have led to breakthroughs in the reproduction and health sciences. In the years going forward, my goal is that our successes will equip conservationists around the world with the tools necessary to save species."
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. AZA inspectors review every aspect of a zoo's operation—animal husbandry, veterinary programs, conservation and research programs, education programs, public outreach, safety policies and procedures, security, physical facilities, guest services and the quality of the institution's staff. The inspectors also evaluated the Zoo's finances, its governing authority and the relationship with its member organization, Friends of the National Zoo.
"Caring for these animals day after day is a responsibility we take to heart," said Don Moore, Associate Director of Animal Care Sciences. "We strive to provide our animals with the best quality of life possible and appreciate the recognition of our outstanding enrichment and animal nutrition programs. When visitors see animals that are active, happy and engaged with their environments, that resonates and sparks the desire to conserve these animals for future generations."
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.