Niabi Zoo loses AZA accreditation

elephant at Niabi Zoo

Niabi Zoo is no longer accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. The non-profit organization awards accreditation based on the approval of its group of experts.

Niabi Zoo director Marc Heinzman tells News 8 that he knew is was a possibility that the zoo would lose the accreditation. Heinzman talked to News 8 on the phone from an AZA conference in Arizona.

Heinzman believes a series of issues led to the loss. He says the AZA wants the zoo to add several new positions to the staff, including a full-time veterinary technician. Right now, the zoo contracts with vet techs who also run their own private practice. The AZA would like Niabi to have its own vet tech on staff.

The association also recommended hiring a registrar to oversee the zoo’s books. Heinzman says there were some issues related to record-keeping noted by the AZA.

Heinzman says the zoo budget will be modified to accommodate new staff positions, so he wasn’t sure how long it would take to have those positions filled.

“We’re extremely disappointed in the Accreditation Commission’s decision,” Heinzman said, “but we will continue to provide the same exceptional level of animal care and the same top-notch guest experiences while we work to address AZA’s concerns.  The entire Niabi Zoo staff remains as dedicated and hard-working as ever, and I am confident that we will have our accreditation renewed again in the near future.”

According to the AZA’s website, their accreditation is beneficial for zoos for several reasons, including:

  • Increased eligibility for grants;
  • Cuts red tape (exempts institutions from certain government requirements, primarily at the state level);
  • Promotes professional recognition from the top zoological parks and aquariums in the United States;
  • Provides impartial evaluation on a periodic basis by professional colleagues;
  • Promotes excellence within the institution by causing an institution to continuously evaluate itself;
  • Provides staff an invaluable opportunity to learn from other institutions;
  • Fosters staff and community pride; and
  • Significantly improves the ability to attract and retain a high quality, profession staff

The AZA claims that fewer than 10% of the approximately 2,400 animal exhibitors licensed by the United States Department of Agriculture are AZA accredited.

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