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Columbus Zoo and Aquarium receives new accreditation

Columbus Zoo and Aquarium entrance sign
Columbus Zoo and Aquarium
The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium entrance sign.

The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium announced Wednesday that the Zoo has earned accreditation from the Zoological Association of America (ZAA), an international association and accrediting body. This comes after the zoo lost its accreditation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) last year.

The Columbus Zoo said the accreditation comes following a four-day, on-site inspection of the zoo in March by a team of zoological professionals, a review period by the ZAA accreditation committee, and full ZAA Board of Directors approval and voting process.

"Meeting or exceeding all accreditation standards only benefits the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium at every level and supports our commitment to fulfilling our mission to lead and inspire by connecting people and wildlife,” said Tom Schmid, President and CEO of the Columbus Zoo Family of Parks.

After losing its accreditation from AZA last year, the zoo appealed the association's decision, but that appeal was ultimately denied. The AZA cited financial mismanagement and concern for animal welfare as two major reasons for denying the zoo's accreditation. The Columbus Zoo had held accreditation from AZA for over 40 years.

The zoo was facing multiple scandals before losing its AZA accreditation. The top two officials at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium resigned following a Columbus Dispatch investigation about the improper use of zoo resources. The Ohio Attorney General also launched an investigation into the zoo, as well as an outside law firm.

In January the zoo's board agreed to settlements with former Columbus Zoo CFO Greg Bell and former Director of Purchasing Tracy Murmane. The two agreed to pay back funds they misused while employed by the zoo. Former CEO Thomas Stalf agreed to pay back $400,000, although Stalf’s attorney said he agreed to pay back the money so that he could move forward with his life, but alleged that his client was made a scapegoat.

Former Columbus Zoo director Jack Hanna was also under fire last year after being accused of having improper ties with the big cat trade industry, allegations that were made public in a documentary titled 'The Conservation Game.'