The Topeka Zoo’s accreditation has been restored to full status after several issues caused it to nearly lose the stamp of approval from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums a year ago.
The Topeka Capital-Journal reported that the association announced its decision Sunday.
“It’s great news,” Topeka Zoo director Brendan Wiley said. “It lets us know we are on the right track or path with our choices.”
Wiley became director of the zoo after the U.S. Department of Agriculture criticized it for numerous animal deaths, its professional accreditation was tabled last March and most of its management left or were fired. A loss of accreditation would have bruised the zoo’s reputation and prevented it from sharing animals with other facilities that are part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
A team from the accrediting organization conducted a status check on Jan. 17. Then on Sunday, Wiley and three other representatives from the Topeka Zoo meet with 12 members of the accreditation commission during the organization’s annual mid-year meeting in Chattanooga, Tenn. The zoo team discussed the progress that has been made, including that the Topeka City Council passed a council resolution that would allow the Friends of the Zoo to fund improvements to the outdoor hippo exhibit, as well as passed two ordinances to help with the zoo’s perimeter fence and necropsy room.
After the 20 minute update and 10 minutes for deliberation, the commission returned with a response.
“The first words were congratulations,” Wiley said. “Then they shared their optimism.”
Staff will submit a progress report to the accreditation commission in six months.
“We are elated,” Wiley said. “We know that this isn’t the end of the story and that we still have a lot of work in front of us but having the affirmation and support of your accrediting agency behind you is priceless.”
City manager Norton Bonaparte said the news was “wonderful.”
“It shows we are returning to a world-class zoo,” he said.