POWELL, Ohio (WCMH) – The new CEO of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is answering questions for the first time since learning that the Association of Zoos and Aquariums denied its appeal to keep its accreditation with the organization.
This marks Tom Schmid’s second week on the job.
He was running an aquarium in Corpus Christi, Texas, and said Tuesday that he knew what he was getting into at the Columbus zoo, which has had a tough year in the news.
Financial improprieties by former zoo leadership led to their ouster last spring.
That was followed by the release of a documentary that exposed concerns about the zoo’s animal outreach program, particularly about where the baby animals that made public appearances with Jack Hanna went after they grew up.
Schmid said he believes the latter likely carried the most weight in the AZA’S decision Monday to deny the accreditation appeal.
The lack of accreditation, Schmid said, should not impact the guest experience, but there are still some lingering questions.
When asked if the lack of accreditation would cause Columbus to lose animals, Schmid said, “We don’t know yet. There are some institutions that would have an opportunity to take an animal back, but I think if they looked at it from an animal welfare perspective, they know that we really provide great animal welfare here. So, if they look at what’s in the best interest of the animal, that animal would more than likely stay here.”
The AZA said it’s optimistic about the changes the zoo has made since all the past year’s allegations have come to light.
“The AZA team agreed that we are meeting the standard, but they felt that what happened in the past was so serious that they simply couldn’t accredit us at this time,” Schmid said.
Schmid is also optimistic that the zoo will get its accreditation back next fall.