The Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) today announced that the Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Garden was granted accreditation by AZA’s independent Accreditation Commission.
“AZA accreditation signifies that Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Garden is committed to meeting the very highest standards in the zoological profession,” said AZA President and CEO Dan Ashe. “It means that Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Garden is a proven leader in animal care and welfare and in providing educational and meaningful experiences for visitors.”
To be accredited, Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Garden underwent a thorough review to make certain it has and will continue to meet ever-rising standards in categories which include animal care and welfare, veterinary programs, conservation, education, and safety. AZA requires zoos and aquariums to successfully complete this rigorous accreditation process every five years in order to be members of the Association.
The accreditation process includes a detailed application and a meticulous on-site inspection by a team of trained zoo and aquarium professionals. The inspecting team observes all aspects of the institution’s operation, 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 independent Accreditation Commission, after which accreditation is granted or denied. Any institution that is denied may reapply one year after the Commission’s decision is made.
In 2016, AZA notified Mesker Park Zoo that certain conditions or requirements of accreditation were not being met and concerns exist. The Zoo remained accredited during the tabled year and addressed the concerns noted. Mayor Lloyd Winnecke initiated and Evansville City Council voted to set aside $112,000 in 2016 and $78,000 in 2017 to correct the issues presented, and Mayor Winnecke has committed to setting aside additional funds as part of the budget process going forward.
“Zoos are more than a showcase for exotic animals and endangered species,” Mayor Winnecke said. “Accredited zoos are focused on animal conservation and research as well as providing a unique educational and recreational experience. That’s why it is important for the City of Evansville and our citizens to support Mesker with funding and through attendance at the zoo.”
“We are very pleased the AZA accreditation commission voted today to extend our accredited status, the zoo staff, the mayor and city council have really answered the call to action and accomplished a lot in a relatively short amount of time, but more importantly there is a commitment going forward to sustain this level of support. We are committed to sharing our passion and connecting visitors to our mission of providing quality experiences that promote understanding of the natural world.” said Erik Beck, Zoo Director.
Founded in 1924, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of zoos and aquariums in the areas of conservation, animal welfare, education, science, and recreation. AZA is the accrediting body for the top zoos and aquariums in the United States and eight other countries. Look for the AZA accreditation logo whenever you visit a zoo or aquarium as your assurance that you are supporting a facility dedicated to providing excellent care for animals, a great experience for you, and a better future for all living things. The AZA is a leader in saving species and your link to helping animals all over the world. To learn more, visit www.aza.org.
About Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Garden
Situated on 45-acres of rolling hills on Evansville’s northwest side, Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Garden is home to hundreds of animals from around the globe. Their mission is to foster the preservation of the Earth’s diverse species and living systems through an active role in education and conservation in our regional and professional community. They forge connections between people and their natural world by providing quality experiences that promote understanding and celebrate the rich tapestry of life.