About a week ago, the Toronto Zoo lost its golden seal from the American-based Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). Now, the president of the union representing the zoo’s animal keepers is concerned the Canadian accreditation may follow.
“That is a very strong possibility,” said Grant Ankenman. “At the present time our membership with CAZA (the Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums) is under review and there is a very strong chance that we will have that revoked as well.”
The two organizations are very similar in principle. The Toronto Zoo lost its AZA accreditation over governance issues. In its unanimous vote, the AZA board of directors found the zoo did not have control over its animals. This became obvious when city council was able to decide to move the zoo’s aging elephants to a non-AZA-accredited sanctuary in California despite the zoo’s protest. This was the first loss of its accreditation in the zoo’s history.
CEO John Tracogna regretted the decision to suspend his zoo.
“Clearly, we are disappointed with the decision made by the AZA,” Tracogna said. “There was never any question of the Toronto Zoo’s animal care. Governance was the key issue.”
The zoo will not be able to re-apply for accreditation before Mar. 1, 2013.
Ankenman is worried about the consequences of this.
“In the short term it may not affect us too much. It mostly hurts our reputation,” Ankenman said. “I think the real test will be a year from now. If we’re rejected then, then it’s definitely much more serious.”
Key to whether the zoo can get its membership back will be the central governance issue.
“We have been working diligently to create a stronger governance model,” Tracogna said. “We will provide an update on this new model in the near future.”
If the zoo cannot work out new governance guidelines with the city, Ankenman doesn’t see how it can get its accreditation back.