Archive for Thursday, September 6, 2001

KC Zoo gets six-month accreditation reprieve

September 6, 2001

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— A professional association on Wednesday gave the Kansas City Zoo six more months to improve finances and staffing and upgrade a dilapidated orangutan exhibit.

Zoo director Mark Wourms met in a closed meeting with the accreditation committee of the American Zoo and Aquarium Assn. The meeting took place in St. Louis, where the association will begin its annual conference Friday.

The 15-member committee tabled until March a decision on whether to pull the zoo's accreditation, spokeswoman Jane Ballentine said. While the AZA has no regulatory power, loss of accreditation would damage the zoo's reputation and limit its ability to obtain grants or even bring in new animals. It also could bar the zoo from breeding endangered species.

In March, the association gave the zoo a similar reprieve.

"Our zoo is fully accredited," zoo spokeswoman Beth Paulsen said. "We've been working and have made good progress."

Paulsen said the zoo has already addressed the main issue, the orangutan facility.

Construction is expected to begin in December on a new $900,000 interim exhibit that will replace the existing home of four of the zoo's apes, an antiquated building with a leaky roof and concrete and iron bars.

The association told the zoo in March 1999 to replace the ape building within a year, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture has cited the decaying building.

The zoo has 32 full-time positions vacant, including a curator and zookeepers, creating the possibility that animal care could suffer. Paulsen said 20 key positions are expected to be filled soon.

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