Information provided by BREC's Baton Rouge Zoo
BATON ROUGE, LA - BREC's Baton Rouge Zoo is disappointed to announce that the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) has opted to not renew its accreditation after this weekend's review by the AZA's Accreditation Commission, a decision rendered by an independent panel of AZA representatives. Less than 10% of animal exhibitors registered with the U.S. Department of Agriculture have achieved AZA accreditation, a distinction that BREC's Baton Rouge Zoo has held for 40 years consecutively that is driven by a rigorous evaluation process required of AZA members every five years. At last count, there are 232 AZA Accredited institutions out of approximately 2,800 licensed animal exhibitors nationwide.
"Unfortunately, our nearly 48-year old Zoo did not meet the rigorous standards set forth by the AZA – a disappointing but unsurprising decision given the significant maintenance and capital needs we know exist at our Zoo," said Phil Frost, Baton Rouge Zoo Director. "We will closely follow the concerns highlighted by the AZA Accreditation Commission as a guide for addressing all outstanding issues that led to this decision, as we work diligently to ensure that we regain our accreditation over the course of the next few years to the extent current funding and other currently dedicated resources will allow. An immediate funding campaign will be needed in order to achieve this."
The accreditation process includes a detailed application and a meticulous on-site inspection by a team of trained zoo and aquarium professionals from across the nation. This team observes all aspects of the applicant's operations, including animal care and welfare; keeper training; safety for visitors, staff and animals; educational programs; conservation efforts; veterinary programs; financial stability; risk management; visitor services; and more. Finally, top officials are interviewed at a formal hearing of AZA's Accreditation Commission, after which accreditation is granted, tabled, or denied. In the decision rendered by this Commission regarding the Baton Rouge Zoo's accredited status, examiners expressed broad concerns regarding dated exhibits that are not reflective of modern zoological practices, along with an aging infrastructure which makes repair and maintenance exponentially difficult. Additionally, examiners closely monitored the discussions regarding potential zoo relocation and investments in a more sustainable, modern location.
As part of AZA's recent decision, BREC's Baton Rouge Zoo was also commended for staff's dedication and passion for their jobs, especially following the flood of 2016. In addition, accolades were given for improvements made to a variety of exhibits, the addition of security cameras and keyless card access points, an immaculately equipped and well-maintained animal hospital, and the Zoo's long-standing relationship with LSU that provides educational opportunities for veterinary students, interns, and residents.