Since its inception in 1976, CAZA has worked to develop accreditation standards that have since become recognized as among the best in the world. Here at home, they serve increasingly as a benchmark for quality animal care and welfare. Today, governments at all levels have incorporated these standards into their regulatory frameworks either directly, by making CAZA accreditation a requirement for licensing, or by referencing them in their regulations.
CAZA’s accreditation program revolves around the principle that zoos and aquariums have a critical role to play in supporting species conservation and biodiversity and that to play that role effectively, they must be guided by the highest standards of safety and animal care, as well as by clear education strategies and goals.
The accreditation program and the standards on which it is based have gone through numerous changes as knowledge of animal care, conservation and education practices, as well as societal values and expectations, have evolved.
CAZA’s accreditation standards are designed to promote professionalism in all aspects of zoo and aquarium management. They ensure CAZA members provide the best possible care for the animals they are entrusted with, and that the more than 12 million yearly visitors to CAZA-accredited facilities benefit from quality and safe learning experiences about animals and nature.
A systems-based approach
Due to the application of the CAZA standards across the broad range of species found in modern zoos and aquariums and the problems inherent to a one-size-fits-all approach to animal care, they tend to be systems-based and qualitative in nature. CAZA’s approach relies on expert inspections and verifications based on generally-accepted best practices, to determine whether a facility, exhibit, or even an enclosure, meets acceptable standards.
Depending upon the size and complexity of the facility to be inspected, inspections are conducted by teams comprised of between two to four trained inspectors. In all cases, the inspection team will include a veterinarian. The remainder of the inspection team is made up of individuals with a minimum of five years of experience in the zoo and aquarium field.
The systems approach used by CAZA is built around mandatory recordkeeping and focuses on ensuring that facilities have professional management as well as robust policies and protocols, along with the financial capacity to meet the requirements of the Accreditation Standards. Mandatory recordkeeping is necessary to follow the evolution of a facility’s operations over time (including the health and welfare of animals and safety related issues), identify problem areas, propose solutions and mitigating strategies, monitor progress, and when appropriate take disciplinary action.