COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is back on the roster for the Association of Zoos & Aquariums.

Columbus Zoo President and CEO Tom Schmid said that over the year-and-a-half since losing the zoo’s accreditation, the group had restructured its animal care program as well as developed “over 30 new financial policies and procedures.” The zoo previously gained a new accreditation from the separate Zoological Association of America in June 2022, and became among the largest wildlife facilities to hold that title.

When under review to receive the AZA’s accreditation again, the organization examined the Columbus Zoo’s performance in several categories:

  • Animal care and wellbeing
  • Veterinary medicine
  • Governance
  • Wildlife conservation
  • Research
  • Education
  • Finance
  • Safety

“We have a new governance model, which joins our elected and appointed members into one cohesive and engaged board,” Schmid said. “During the zoo’s AZA inspection in December, the inspection team noted no major concerns and no concerns remaining from the previous inspection. The inspectors recognized 12 points of particular achievement, including the zoo’s animal acquisition and disposition policy.”

Not only did the Columbus Zoo receive its accreditation back, but the president added that it would be hosting the AZA’s annual conference set for September.

The zoo previously lost its AZA accreditation in October 2021 after a year of scandals plagued it. Former CEO Tom Stalf and the 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. 

The zoo had held AZA accreditation for more than 40 years prior to its removal in 2021. After losing the accreditation, the Columbus Zoo tried to appeal the AZA’s decision, but was denied. Its most recent inspection in December changed that.

“The outcome of our recent inspection really demonstrates how far we have come,” Schmid said. “We welcome the rigor of all accreditation inspections and continue to identify new opportunities to benchmark our programming.”