Columbus Zoo accreditation appeal denied

Ohio

POWELL, Ohio (WCMH) — The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium’s appeal to have its accreditation reinstated by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) has been denied.

In a statement released by the zoo Monday, it will “explore every option to continue fulfilling our mission and to continue our work with endangered and threatened species that need our help.”

The AZA pulled the zoo’s accreditation in early October based on a number of controversies surrounding the Columbus landmark, including the misappropriation of funds and resources by former high-level management and accusations that former zoo director Jack Hanna had improper ties to big cat trade.

“Regardless of the AZA’s decision, we will continue to move forward,” the statement read. “We promise to keep you informed of next steps. Under Jerry Borin’s leadership since March 30 our team has moved mountains to make transformative changes that continue to make us a better Zoo with new policies and more oversights that were in place at the time of the AZA inspection in July.”

The statement did not give a reason as to why the appeal was denied.

The statement said zoo president and CEO Tom Schmid, members of its leadership team, and board chairman Keith Shumate presented the appeal to AZA Monday, asking AZA to grant the zoo its accreditation or have the accreditation tabled until 2022 while the zoo remained accredited.

In a statement, Schmid, who started with the zoo as CEO on Dec. 6, said the zoo has moved forward with changes brought up during the AZA inspection in July, including new team members, new policies, and more oversight.

“Being accredited by a third-party professional association is important, so we are exploring all options to continue fulfilling our mission and to continue our work with endangered and threatened species that need our help,” Schmid said. “Without question, the care and welfare of the animals remains our top priority.”

The AZA evaluates and recognizes zoos in areas of operations and animal welfare. One source said losing the accreditation is a black eye for the zoo and can determine what animals are available to be transferred here.  Sources said there is also concern what the loss will mean for funding and donor confidence. 

The zoo had held AZA accreditation for more than 40 years.

A statement from the zoo’s vice president of philanthropy Mayme Norman reads in full:

Earlier this afternoon, our President and CEO Tom Schmid, members of our leadership team, along with Board Chair Keith Shumate, made a strong appeal to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Board of Directors requesting AZA grant the Zoo accreditation or have its accreditation tabled until 2022 while remaining accredited.

Unfortunately, the AZA denied our appeal.

Regardless of the AZA’s decision, we will continue to move forward. We promise to keep you informed of next steps. Under Jerry Borin’s leadership since March 30 our team has moved mountains to make transformative changes that continue to make us a better Zoo with new policies and more oversights that were in place at the time of the AZA inspection in July.

The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is and remains an outstanding institution here in Ohio, across the country, and around the world.

To that extent, we will explore every option to continue fulfilling our mission and to continue our work with endangered and threatened species that need our help. The care and welfare of the animals remain our top priority.

Despite all the challenges this year, we have so much to celebrate and to be thankful for. Some points of pride include the heartfelt support from you – our donors, a record-setting year of attendance, celebrating the birth of several endangered species, and contributing to many incredible conservation programs locally and internationally.

We will continue moving forward and come out of this stronger than ever, thanks in large part to our incredible team and the support of our incredible community.

Mayme Norman, vice president of philanthropy for the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

The statement from the zoo and Schmid reads, in full:

“We are moving forward,” he said.  Schmid, who began his role on Dec. 6 and participated in the appeal to the AZA Board along with Board Chair Keith Shumate, Senior VP Animal Care and Conservation Dr. Jan Ramer, and former interim Zoo President and CEO Jerry Borin, who served until Schmid arrived. “In the last nine months, the Zoo team has moved mountains to make transformative changes that continue to make us a better Zoo with new team members, new policies, and more oversights that were in place at the time of the AZA inspection in July.”

Schmid said the Zoo welcomes standards and scrutiny that evaluates the institution.

“Being accredited by a third-party professional association is important, so we are exploring all options to continue fulfilling our mission and to continue our work with endangered and threatened species that need our help,” he said. “Without question, the care and welfare of the animals remains our top priority.”

He added, “We deeply appreciate the unwavering support of our community despite many challenges created by past leadership. We have so much to celebrate and to be thankful for- the support of our heartfelt donors, a record-setting year of attendance, celebrating the birth of several endangered species, and contributing to many conservation programs locally and internationally. The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is thriving thanks to our community.”

Statement from the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

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