Point Defiance awarded five-year national accreditation

Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium has been awarded a full five-year accreditation – and a standing ovation – from the American Zoo and Aquarium Association.

AZA accreditation puts Point Defiance among an elite set of North American Zoos that meet rigorous standards of animal care, education and conservation, said Gary Geddes, director of zoological and environmental education for Metro Parks Tacoma.

The AZA is a nonprofit organization that currently accredits 205 zoos in North America, in addition to offering professional training and conservation initiatives.

The accreditation renewal fulfills a promise to Pierce County taxpayers, who approved a tenth of a cent sales tax in 2000 to support the Zoo, Northwest Trek Wildlife Park and other parks in Pierce County. Accreditation is a requirement for continued sales tax support of Point Defiance and Northwest Trek.

“We’re very pleased with the AZA Commission’s findings and grateful to Pierce County voters for supporting their zoos,” Geddes said.

The decision was announced Sept. 11 during the AZA national conference last week in Dallas-Fort Worth. Zoo officials were given a standing ovation after appearing before the AZA Accreditation Commission to report on strides the Zoo has made.

The applause acknowledged the dramatic turn-around that has taken place at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium during the past three years.

The zoo’s accreditation had been in jeopardy before passage of the sales tax and a $35 million bond issue that Tacoma voters approved in 1999.

In fact, the zoo’s financial status had eroded to the point that the Zoo has been required to submit reports to the AZA every six months and undergo annual inspections.

An AZA inspection team that visited the Zoo in July noted major improvement in the Zoo’s financial stability as well as other positive changes, including the new animal hospital currently under construction and “exemplary” elephant management.

The team also issued a list of minor corrections to be addressed.
“Our staff worked very hard to make these positive changes come about, and this is a reflection of their dedication and hard work,” Geddes said.

“Winning accreditation renewal at this point in the zoo’s redevelopment was absolutely critical to our ability to bring in new exhibits and animals for our visitors.”