Posted on 04/05/2016 at 12:00 AM by Blog Author
Did you know fewer than 10% of the approximately 2,800 animal exhibitors licensed by the USDA are AZA accredited? (aza.org) AZA is the Association of Zoo & Aquariums. In 1986 the Des Moines Children’s Zoo closed its doors and began its remodel. It opened back up as Blank Park Zoo in 1987 and has been an AZA accredited zoo since. Blank Park Zoo, among 110 other zoos and aquariums, was recognized for the “Quarter Century Award” acknowledging their AZA accreditation for at least 25 consistent years. What does this mean, you might ask? Well, let me tell you.
Being accredited by the AZA is a major accomplishment and privilege for 233 facilities. Accreditation is the official recognition or approval of a zoo or aquarium by a selected group of experts. In order to become an accredited facility, an institution must pass all of the requirements and standards put in place by the association. Each zoo or aquarium is carefully examined and judged on multiple levels including: animal care and management, enrichment, and veterinary care. Only those zoos and aquariums that meet these high standards can become accredited. From that point, the facility continues to progress and improve as the standards and requirements grow from year to year.
With this high achievement come many benefits not only for the individual zoo or aquarium, but for the entire AZA network. Being accredited by the AZA develops public trust knowing that your zoo/aquarium will always have a professional staff and the best facilities. Additional benefits to being in the AZA network are the opportunities for zoos and aquariums to work with one another. Animals can be exchanged among different AZA facilities: staff network with each other from different institutions allowing knowledge of all animals in the care of AZA to spread over a wide range of people and places making sure that jobs are being right for the welfare of the animals. Zoos and aquariums within the AZA network support one another, which is very important. AZA is dedicated to the advancement of zoos and aquariums through conservation, education, science, and recreation. This network makes that possible.
In 2012, AZA institutions provided $160 million supporting 2,700 different field conservation projects in over 115 different countries. They generate more than $16 billion in annual economic activity and they provide jobs for over 142,000 people. AZA zoos and aquariums have trained over 400,000 teachers in the last ten years and connected with more than 12 million students. Together, in 2013, 223 different AZA zoos and aquariums attracted over 181 million visitors, with the majority of those visitors being children. Because of the rewarding outcome of being involved with an institution of this type, more than 60,000 people put in 3,000,000+ hours volunteering with an AZA accredited facility. This shows that together, we can accomplish so much.
Blank Park Zoo has been a very proud contributor to many different conservation projects. Blank Park Zoo alone generates about $65,000 annually just in conservation funds, all of which is then distributed to over 14 field conservation organizations. So by just supporting one zoo or one aquarium, you’re really helping several without realizing it. This AZA network we revolve around is really a big family that is constantly working together to not only better institutions, but the entire wildlife conservation community as a whole.