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Association of Zoos and Aquariums approve Columbus Zoo’s application to appeal accreditation denial

If the appeal is unsuccessful, the earliest the zoo can apply for accreditation is September 2022.
Credit: aceshot1/Shutterstock

POWELL, Ohio — The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium’s application to appeal the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' decision to deny its accreditation has been approved.

According to the zoo, an appeal hearing has been set for Dec. 13 with the association’s board of directors.

The AZA Accreditation Commission voted to deny the zoo accreditation in October, saying Columbus failed to uphold its standards. The zoo kept its accreditation with the organization for 40 years prior to the denial.

The AZA cited an ongoing investigation into the misuse of funds at the zoo as well as reports of international animal transfers for entertainment purposes.

In March, the Columbus Dispatch reported that four zoo officials, including former President and CEO Tom Stalf and CFO Greg Bell, misused zoo resources. Shortly after that announcement, both Stalf and Bell voluntarily resigned.

An investigation later found that the zoo lost more than $630,000 between the four officials.

The AZA also pointed to a "long record of intentional and repeated animal transfers with non-AZA members intended to supply baby animals – mainly big cats – for entertainment purposes."

A documentary called "The Conservation Game" claims longtime zoo director Jack Hanna and the zoo had ties to the big cat trade across the country. In July, the zoo stopped working with certain animal organizations that were mentioned in the film.

The zoo said the AZA provided the inspection that took place this summer, where it claims the AZA commended them on numerous changes.

However, the zoo said the AZA wanted to see the changes sustained before accrediting the zoo.

The zoo still has its accreditation during the appeal period. If the appeal is unsuccessful, the earliest the zoo can apply for accreditation is September 2022.

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