By: Christine Souders
A big disappointment for Niabi Zoo, it's no longer accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
The zoo was denied a renewal of the accreditation by AZA, a stamp of approval the zoo had since 2006 for achieving a certain level of standards.
Katie Moore, and her daughter Lucy enjoy seeing the elephant exhibit the most at the Niabi Zoo, "The animals seem well taken care of and they seem happy, and we like to come and look at them," said Moore.
But, the exhibit just isn't cutting it for the AZA's "modern zoological philosophy."
"It's not very natural looking. It could be a much better presentation of the animals that what it is now," said Niabi Zoo Director Marc Heinzman.
Other sticking points are the zoo's backlogged records and lack of staffing.
The association also recommends the zoo add a veterinary assistant to their roster.
All of which Heinzman told us makes it even more difficult without the accreditation, "It provided opportunities for easier acquisition of new animals, it helps us draw a very talented and experience staff as we continue to grow."
While Heinzman said he's disappointed in the AZA's decision not to accredit the zoo, he and his staff are going to continue to do the best with what resources they have.
"We'll continue to provide the same high level of care that we have always provided while we were accredited, and nothing's going to change in regards to that, so as long as those animals stay at the zoo. I think we'll be in good shape and continue to move forward, and get it back very soon."
Heinzman said not getting the accreditation will not affect ticket prices, but they will be requesting additional funding from the county, and guests could miss out on seeing some animals they have on loan.
The Niabi Zoo is still fundraising for a new elephant exhibit worth more than 4 million dollars, and they will be eligible to reapply next September for the accreditation.