Director: Abilene Zoo accredited, 'in top 10 percent of zoos' in U.S.

ABILENE, Texas - Of 2,500 animal exhibits licensed in the U.S., the Abilene Zoo is one of only 225 to be granted accreditation by The Association of Zoos & Aquariums' independent Accreditation Commission.

City officials made the announcement that the AZA commission had accredited the zoo on Wednesday.

"It puts us in the top 10 percent of zoos in the country," Abilene Zoo Director Bill Gersonde said. "It's a significant achievement for the whole community ... It's something the whole community should be proud of."

The accreditation comes five years after the AZA commission's accreditation of the Abilene Zoo was tabled for 12 months to allow the zoo time to, among other things, improve its veterinary and quarantine facilities and to change its approach to maintenance.

A year later, in 2010, the zoo was accredited after improvements were made.

"Every five years the zoo must get accredited all over again," city spokesperson Leah Mazzarelli said. "It's not a renewal, which is how it might seem."

Gersonde said the AZA commission was impressed with how the zoo addressed deferred maintenance, increased the number of staff taking care of facilities, and with improvements made to the zoo.

In a statements, AZA President and CEO Jim Maddy said: "Only zoos and aquariums that meet the highest standards are accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. The community should take great pride in knowing that the Abilene Zoo is a proven leader in the care and conservation of wildlife, and in inspiring people to take action to protect the natural world."

According to a news release, the Abilene Zoo underwent a thorough review to ensure it has and will continue to meet ever-rising standards.

"The accreditation process includes a detailed application and a meticulous on-site inspection by a team of trained zoo and aquarium professionals," the release said. "The inspecting team observes all aspects of the institution's operation, including animal care; keeper training; safety for visitors, staff and animals; educational programs; conservation efforts; veterinary programs; financial stability; risk management; visitor services; and other areas."

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