The Abilene Zoo became one of 225 national zoos to be accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums earlier this month.
The accreditation ranks the zoo, which is home to about 1,000 animals, in the top 10 percent of all zoos in the country. Every five years, each zoo must resubmit for accreditation and be reviewed and considered for the recognition.
“We are very, very happy about receiving the accreditation,” said Bill Gersonde, director of the Abilene Zoo. “It takes a lot of work from a lot of people to keep the zoo running to where we want it, but it is always worth it.”
The decision on April 2 was made after the accreditation process five years ago resulted in the Abilene zoo’s probationary period. The zoo was allowed a year to improve on a variety of matters, such as its veterinary and quarantine facilities, and to change its approach to maintenance.
“The decision to table the zoo’s accreditation was made before I got here,” Gersonde said. “But it forced us to make changes that needed to be changed that had been scheduled for a long time.”
The zoo made the required improvements to maintenance, increased the number on staff and improved the overall atmosphere.
The Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ accreditation release stated the inspecting team observes all aspects of the institution’s operation, including animal care, keeper training, safety, educational programs, conservation efforts, veterinary programs, financial stability, risk management, visitor services and other areas.
The zoo, which prides itself on its community appeal, provides educational programs, summer camps, weekend programs, tours, pre-school classes and special events year-round. It also has been a prime place for students to volunteer.
“The Abilene community has always supported us and what we do,” Gersonde said. “We’re the number one tourist attraction in Abilene, and we want to continue to be a place that not only attracts visitors, but also people who are part of the community.”