Association of Zoos & Aquariums Renews National Aviary Accreditation


10/26/2015

PITTSBURGH, PA (October 26, 2015) – In a press conference at times interrupted by appearances by one of the world’s largest species of owls, an inquisitive group of African penguins, and two very tall and elegant American flamingos seeking to steal the spotlight, the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) today announced that the National Aviary has been granted accreditation by AZA’s independent Accreditation Commission.

Speaking to guests and media assembled in the National Aviary’s Helen M. Schmidt FliteZone Theater™, AZA Executive Director Kris Vehrs praised the National Aviary’s standards of animal care, as well as accomplishments in the areas of organizational management, specifically visitation and earned revenue growth; cross-departmental collaboration; educational programming; visitor experience; veterinary care; conservation and field research; commitment to citizen science; and breeding and husbandry.

“The Association of Zoos and Aquariums accredits only those zoos and aquariums that meet the highest standards and are proven leaders in the care and conservation of wildlife as well as education,” said Vehrs. “The community can take great pride in knowing that the National Aviary is dedicated to inspiring the next generation of conservationists.”

To be accredited, the National Aviary underwent a thorough review to ensure it has and will continue to meet rising standards, which include animal care, veterinary programs, conservation, education, and safety. AZA requires zoos and aquariums to successfully complete this rigorous accreditation process every five years in order to be members of the Association.  

The accreditation process includes a detailed application and a meticulous on-site inspection by a team of trained zoo and aquarium professionals. The inspecting team observes all aspects of the institution’s operation, including animal care; keeper training; visitor, staff and animal safety; educational programs; conservation efforts; veterinary programs; financial stability; risk management; visitor services; and other areas.  Finally, top officials are interviewed at a formal hearing of AZA’s independent Accreditation Commission, after which accreditation is granted, tabled, or denied.  Any institution that is denied may reapply one year after the Commission’s decision is made.
 
“We are delighted that our efforts to maintain the highest level of excellence have earned this important recognition, not only for the quality of care we provide to our birds, but also in our commitment to the visitor experience, to education, and to conservation efforts in the field,” said National Aviary Managing Director Cheryl Tracy. “I could not be more proud of our growth, and of the dedicated professional team that continues to push for an ever more dynamic and vibrant National Aviary experience. They are always looking for new ways to enhance the health and well-being of our birds, and to provide opportunities for guests to learn about and encounter birds in memorable ways.”

Today’s press conference also highlighted the National Aviary’s participation in the AZA Species Survival Plan® (SSP), a carefully managed breeding program that seeks to preserve a healthy, genetically diverse population of animals in zoos and aquariums throughout North America. The National Aviary is currently home to 72 SSP species including 49 that are actively engaged in breeding programs, including African penguins, Andean condors, Guam rails, rhinoceros hornbills, keel-billed toucans, Steller’s sea eagles, and more.

The National Aviary is helping to lead national efforts in the protection of African penguins, a critically endangered species whose populations have declined from more than 2 million pairs in 1900 to fewer than 18,000 pairs remaining in the wild today. The National Aviary manages a successful breeding program within its colony of 18 African penguins, and has hatched six African penguin chicks in the past three years.  To illustrate, those six chicks made an appearance for guests at today’s announcement!

AZA officials also commended the National Aviary for its newest exhibit, Condor Court, an outdoor space that houses two pairs of endangered Andean condors that the Aviary hopes will successfully breed in coming years. Condor Court is designed to mimic the natural habitat of Andean condors, and features a 20-foot high rock façade, nesting caves, bathing pools, up-close viewing, and a conservation station similar to field research stations used by National Aviary researchers in the Andes Mountains. The National Aviary is currently the only accredited zoo in North America exhibiting two pairs of Andean condors as well as managing them for breeding.
            

About the AZA:
Founded in 1924, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of zoos and aquariums in the areas of conservation, animal welfare, education, science, and recreation. AZA is the accrediting body for the top zoos and aquariums in the United States and seven other countries. Look for the AZA accreditation logo whenever you visit a zoo or aquarium as your assurance that you are supporting a facility dedicated to providing excellent care for animals, a great experience for you, and a better future for all living things. The AZA is a leader in saving species and your link to helping animals all over the world. To learn more, visit www.aza.org.

About the National Aviary:
The National Aviary is America’s only independent indoor nonprofit zoo dedicated exclusively to birds. Located in West Park on Pittsburgh’s historic North Side, the National Aviary’s diverse collection comprises 500 birds representing more than 150 species from around the world, many of them threatened or endangered in the wild. The National Aviary’s large walk-through exhibits create an intimate, up-close interaction between visitors and free-flying birds, including opportunities to hand-feed and to meet many species rarely found in zoos anywhere else in the world. Hours of operation are 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. daily. For admission rates and more information visit www.aviary.org.

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Contact:
Robin Weber, National Aviary
Director of Marketing and Communications
Office: 412-258-9435 / Mobile: 412-215-9199
Rob Vernon, AZA
301.244.3352 / rvernon@aza.org