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Children’s Zoo gets accreditation

Facility again awarded for high standards

The Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo has once again been awarded accreditation by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, officials announced Monday.

The accreditation process requires zoo officials to prove they meet high standards in animal care, veterinary programs, conservation, education, and safety.

“By meeting Association of Zoos and Aquariums Accreditation Standards, the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo sets itself apart as one of the top zoos in the world,” AZA President and CEO Jim Maddy said in the announcement. “The Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo is a leader in the care and conservation of wildlife, and in educating people about the natural world.”

AZA requires zoos and aquariums to successfully complete this rigorous accreditation process every five years to be members of the Association.

The Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo has had AZA accreditation since 1976.

“The standards evolve – it’s not a slam dunk,” said AZA Executive Director Kris Vehrs. “Just because the zoo is accredited now doesn’t mean it will be accredited five years from now. It’s all about the standards.”

And the standards are about much more than just taking good care of animals: Zoos today are about conservation and species survival.

“We’re about conservation education and outreach,” Vehrs said. “Connecting people, connecting children with nature, and inspiring them to save wild animals and wild places.”

Zoo Director Jim Anderson points out that there are about 2,800 organizations with federal permits to display animals, but only 223 accredited by the AZA.

“A lot of times, people will say, ‘Where did you get those lions and how much did they cost?’ ” Anderson said. “They don’t understand lions are a cooperatively managed species.”

That means zoos in the AZA work together to ensure proper breeding for endangered animals such as lions to ensure the species survives.

“The AZA’s not a them, it’s us,” Anderson said. “We all share the same mission.”

Anderson said the accreditation process took about two years, and required submitting more than 2,700 pages of documentation for standards such as animal care; keeper training; safety for visitors, staff and animals; educational programs; conservation efforts; veterinary programs; financial stability; risk management; and visitor services.

“The entire zoo team works hard to ensure that our programs, protocols, and facilities meet the highest standards,” Anderson said.

The Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo is open through Oct. 13. Wild Zoo Halloween runs Oct. 18 through Oct. 31.