Utica, NY – The Utica Zoo is pleased to announce their successful accreditation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. After a yearlong application and rigorous inspection, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums awarded the “accredited” status to the Utica Zoo on September 24th at the AZA Annual Conference in Seattle, WA.
The Utica Zoo lost their accredited status in 2004 due to, in part, deferred maintenance and a lack of fundraising necessary to properly operate the Zoo. After several years and new leadership, Zoo administrators set their sights on re-earning the accreditation for the benefit of the animals, staff, members, donors, and community. After a 3 day inspection in July of 2018, the inspection committee noted 12 findings that needed to be addressed before accreditation would be granted. A virtual army of contractors and volunteers converged on the Zoo to make the necessary renovations and upgrades required to bring the Zoo to “modern Zoological practices”. In the 75 days between inspection and accreditation approval, thousands of hours of work took place and would not have been possible without the contractors, volunteers, donors, board members and staff of the Utica Zoo. The Utica Zoo would also like to recognize the Oneida County Legislature and County Executive Anthony Picente for their financial support of $300,000 toward the accreditation process.
AZA accreditation carries numerous benefits including recognition from the top animal care facilities in the world. Accreditation also allows access to certain funding and grants, expanded participation in animal exchange and breeding programs, access to collaborate with world renowned animal care specialists, and the fostering of staff and community pride in knowing their Zoo is ranked in the top echelon of animal care facilities.
The Utica Zoo currently participates in the AZA Species Survival Plan, which is a flagship conservation program dedicated to the advancement of endangered and critically endangered species. Also, membership at any AZA accredited Zoo offers free or discounted admission to the network of the 232 other accredited Zoos and Aquariums, creating new tourism and economic advantages.
“The Utica Zoo staff currently operates under the standards provided by AZA and expects the excellence described in these standards,” says Andria Heath, Executive Director of the Utica Zoo. “This actual accreditation is considered to be a seal of best practices in this industry and the Utica Zoo is honored to once again be included in the information and resource sharing with the fellow 232 institutions. We couldn’t have come this far without the amazing support of our community and the outstanding hard work of the staff and volunteers. The zoo has been experiencing a makeover and with our Dream Big Master Plan, the improvements will continue.”
“The Board of the Utica Zoo has over the last several years worked with the Utica Zoo Administration and Staff, Volunteers, the Oneida Country Legislature as well as the City of Utica and our NY State representatives in Albany to help regain our lost accreditation from 2004,” commented Board of Directors Chair Dr. Robert Jubenville. “All have responded spectacularly which have given us the ability to make significant improvement in modern zoological practices throughout all areas of the zoo. After thorough review the AZA accreditation team has seen fit to reinstate our AZA accreditation. It is with much excitement that we can announce this to all who have participated in the efforts to regain accreditation and make the Utica Zoo one of the premier tourist attractions in Central New York.”
Director of Animal Operations Pearl Yusuf commented “Having worked at AZA accredited zoos for over 30 years, I know the struggle to establish and maintain the high standards of animal care and public service necessary to achieve this recognition. I am extremely proud to be a part of the team of dedicated and determined zoo professionals who made this happen. Utica has a gem of a zoo right in the heart of the city and now we are recognized for that on a national level.”
Utica Zoo creates unique experiences and promotes public appreciation of wildlife through education, conservation and recreation. Located in Roscoe Conkling Park, the Utica Zoo was established in 1914 as part of a recreational complex made possible by the donation of land from Thomas R. Proctor. The zoo has grown from its beginnings of three Fallow Deer donated by the New York Zoological Society to its present collection of more than 100 species from around the world.