National Aquarium Receives Five-Year Accreditation Renewal from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums 

Renewal will carry the Aquarium through the 40th anniversary of its first accreditation in 1984 

The National Aquarium has earned a renewal of its accreditation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' (AZA) independent Accreditation Commission in March at the AZA's Mid-Year Meeting. This renewal, which lasts five years, extends the National Aquarium's continuous accreditation since its original application in 1984.

"Accreditation with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums is of paramount importance to us and is critical to shaping and keeping with our philosophy as a leader in animal care and wellbeing," said Aquarium President and CEO John Racanelli. "As we approach the 40th anniversary of our initial accreditation, we believe that it is more important than ever that all institutions serious about animal welfare adhere to the highest standard of ever-evolving care for animals, our facilities and our guests."

AZA accreditation includes a detailed application and a meticulous, on-site, multiple-day inspection by an independent team of zoological professionals. The inspecting team analyzes all aspects of the facility's operation, including animal care and wellbeing; veterinary care; keeper training; safety for visitors, staff, and animals; educational programs; conservation efforts; financial stability; risk management; governance; and guest services. Detailed reports from the inspection team and the facility alike are then thoroughly evaluated by the Accreditation Commission. Finally, the Commission interviews top officials from the facility at a formal hearing, after which accreditation is either fully granted, provisionally granted for one year, or denied.

"Our application for continued AZA accreditation takes into consideration every aspect of our operations and animal welfare practices and is a true team lift for our entire organization," said Senior Vice President and Chief Animal Welfare Officer Stephanie Allard, PhD who led the 2023 accreditation effort. "Being accredited for another five years is a testament to the hard work and extreme care executed everyday by dedicated teams across the Aquarium."

A thorough review makes sure each facility has and will continue to meet ever-rising standards, which emphasize animal wellbeing, veterinary programs, conservation, education, and safety. AZA requires facilities to complete this rigorous accreditation process every five years as a condition of Association membership.

According to the AZA, fewer than 10% of the 2,800 animal exhibitors registered with the U.S. Department of Agriculture are AZA accredited. There are currently 238 AZA-accredited facilities and 15 AZA-certified related facility members throughout the U.S. and 12 other countries. The National Aquarium and the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore are the only AZA-accredited facilities in the state of Maryland.

"To hold the public's trust as being the 'gold standard' for zoological facilities, we are constantly evolving our standards to reflect the latest animal science," said Dan Ashe, president and chief executive officer of AZA. "We owe it to the animals in our care to provide the best animal wellbeing possible, and our rigorous accreditation process reflects that expectation. Congratulations to these outstanding zoos and aquariums for earning AZA's accreditation."

The AZA is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of zoos and aquariums in the areas of conservation, animal welfare, education, science, and recreation, and is the accrediting body for the top zoos and aquariums in the United States and 12 other countries and is a leader in saving species all over the world.

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