Association stands behind flooded Calgary attraction

Most of the Calgary Zoo was so damaged by this year’s flood that the majority of exhibits will remain closed to the public for months to come however the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) announced on September 10 the zoo still merits the highest level of accreditation available.

“The Calgary Zoo is a leader in the care and conservation of wildlife and in educating people about the natural world. Their emergency response and the care provided to their animal collection both during and since the devastating flood in June 2013 have proven that beyond any doubt” says Jim Maddy president and CEO of the Maryland-based AZA.

The AZA is a non-profit conservancy organization with a membership of some 6000 zoo and aquarium professionals. Its accreditation process involves a comprehensive audit of a facility’s operations and an in-person inspection by a team of veterinarians and zoo administrators that can last several days. Only 10 per cent of licensed animal exhibitors in the United States hold AZA accreditation and according to Calgary Zoo spokesperson Laurie Skene only four in Canada: the Calgary Zoo Montréal Biodome Grandby Zoo and Vancouver Aquarium.

“It is sort of the highest standard in our industry” Skene explains. “It exceeds all of the provincial requirements…. It really is a measure setting you apart.

“They were here just a week before the flood so everything was looking fantastic and then the flood hit. So I think for us one of the really nice things that we heard from the AZA was ‘yes we know you’ve been through this disaster but we are confident that you’re going to rebuild to the same or higher standard. We know that animal care was not compromised during this whole event and that certainly the evacuation was nothing short of a miracle’…. It’s very encouraging for people who have been working so hard to try and get the zoo back on its feet” she says.

The north end of the zoo is open which includes the prehistoric park Canadian wildland and penguin exhibits. Skene says the island portion of the zoo remains a construction zone. It is due to reopen in November.