Columbus Zoo, made famous by Jack Hanna, will appeal loss of accreditation
POWELL, Ohio (WCMH) – The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, known by former director Jack Hanna’s numerous television appearances, is losing its Zoos and Aquarium Association (AZA) accreditation. The nationally recognized “best practice” honor has been held by the zoo for over 40 years.
The zoo confirmed in a statement Wednesday morning that it will appeal the decision.
The loss of accreditation follows a year of scandals that plagued the zoo and its managers. Former CEO Tom Stalf and former CFO Greg Bell have each resigned amid allegations they have misused zoo property for personal gain, allowing family members to live in homes owned at the zoo and awarded construction contracts without tendering.
In August, a documentary claimed longtime zoo director Jack Hanna had inappropriate ties to the big cat trade across the country, using his fame to distort the source of the animals used in his many television appearances. .
Sources said the scandals played a direct role in the loss of AZA accreditation, and there are concerns about what all of this will mean for the zoo’s national reputation. The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium has always been rated one of the best zoos in the country.
A source said losing accreditation is a black eye for the zoo and may determine which animals are available to transfer there. Sources also told WCMH that there were concerns about what the loss would mean for funding and donor confidence.
The zoo’s appeal must be filed by October 30, and if it fails, the zoo can apply for accreditation no earlier than September 2022.
A statement from the Columbus Zoo said that a team from the Accreditation Commission visited in July and congratulated the zoo on 17 exemplary work in all aspects of the zoo’s operation, and the committee’s vote n was not unanimous. The zoo says the AZA commission could have dropped the accreditation of the zoo for one year so that changes and improvements could be made.
“At the time of the AZA inspection by the visiting committee in July, we believe that the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium met the AZA standards required for accreditation. The bad decisions of a handful of people should not negate the good work of this team and the contribution of staff members to AZA through committee work and leadership roles. No one currently working at the zoo had anything to do with the position we find ourselves in today. We have recognized the wrongs of the past. We’ve also made changes and updated policies to ensure this doesn’t happen again, ”said Jerry Borin, Interim CEO and President of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.
The zoo said operations and visitor experience would not be affected by the decision.
News of the AZA decision comes the same day Tom Schmid, the current director of the Texas State Aquarium, was announced as the new CEO of the Columbus Zoo.
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