Kudos to Utica Zoo for return to accreditation

Published Oct 5, 2018 at 4:00pm

Last week, the Utica Zoo announced that it has regained accreditation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, restoring its good standing with other zoos and aquariums across the country. 

It was more than a mere acknowledgement from the national organization, but recognition of where the zoo is now and where it has come from. When the zoo lost its accreditation in 2004, the AZA outlined several deficiencies — from deferred but necessary maintenance and a lack of fundraising to smaller outstanding issues. 

Since that sobering decision, the zoo — which has long been an important cultural linchpin for the region — has embarked on a slow, but steady, campaign to not just restore its past luster but to become a true regional gem and an important part of the community’s fabric. 

There are many individuals who can share in its success, from the Utica Zoo’s board and executive director, its staff, its ‘virtual army’ of volunteers to the county officials, including Oneida County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr., and the Oneida County Board of Legislators who championed and approved $300,000 in county funding to help fix some outstanding maintenance issues. Likewise, the zoo’s ambitious and successful master plan and fundraising efforts have not only provided significant enhancements but have helped restore regional excitement about this important asset. 

“The Utica Zoo staff currently operates under the standards provided by AZA and expects the excellence described in these standards,” zoo Executive Director Andria Heath said in a statement. “This actual accreditation is considered to be a seal of best practices in this industry and the Utica Zoo is honored to once again be included in the information and resource sharing with the fellow 232 institutions.” 

In addition to funding and industry recognition and pride, accreditation allows expanded participation in animal exchange and breeding programs, and the ability to collaborate with world-renowned animal care specialists, the zoo said in its announcement.

The zoo has long been important for its assistance in conservation efforts for animals both exotic and endangered. Additionally, it has delighted local children for generations and provided an important educational experience and connections to wildlife for area youth and adults.

If you haven’t been to the zoo in a while, it is worth a trip back. You may be pleasantly surprised.