COLUMBUS (WCMH) — The Columbus Zoo has formally submitted an appeal after it lost its accreditation with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums last month.
The loss of accreditation followed a year of scandals that plagued the zoo and its leadership. Former CEO Tom Stalf and former chief financial officer Greg Bell each resigned amid allegations that they misused zoo property for personal profit — allowing family members to live in zoo-owned houses — and awarded no-bid construction contracts.
And in August, a documentary alleged longtime zoo director Jack Hanna had improper ties to the big cat trade across the country, using his celebrity to misrepresent the source for the animals used in his many television appearances.
A news release from the Zoo on Friday said the accreditation commission was already pleased with certain changes, such as hiring Tom Schmid of the Texas State Aquarium as CEO and new policies regarding “ambassador animals.”
“However, the Commission ruled it wants to see that these changes can be sustained before accrediting the Zoo,” the release said.
The commission also expressed concerns over financial management issues that are still under investigation by the state. And the news release that certain areas of the appeals process will remain confidential, such as procedures regarding the safety and security of animals and guests.
The Zoo will retain accreditation status during the appeal process, which must be completed within 45 days. If the appeal is unsuccessful, it can reapply for accreditation in September.