Mar 28, 2023 - Business

Two years after scandal, the Columbus Zoo is accredited again

Illustration of a marching line of penguins wearing gold stars, top hats, monocles, and bow ties.

Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

The Columbus Zoo regained its accreditation with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) yesterday — nearly 18 months after losing it due to scandals involving its top officials.

Why it matters: Above all, reputation. AZA accreditation is the zoological gold standard and Columbus had earned it for 41 straight years before October 2021.

  • This resolves a rough, embarrassing chapter of the zoo's otherwise well-respected history and helps ensure new president and CEO Tom Schmid can focus on moving forward with his goals, including renovations and a strategic plan.

What's more: Zoo members now once again enjoy free or discounted admission to other AZA member zoos, including Toledo, Cincinnati and Cleveland.

Catch up quick: The loss of accreditation was two-pronged.

Details: The zoo has made many changes to its animal care program and financial policies, Schmid said in a statement. A December AZA inspection found no issues.

  • The accreditation is valid for five years.

What he's saying: "I'm proud of our team, both our staff and our board of directors. We have accomplished so much over the last 18 months," Schmid said.

💭 Alissa's thought bubble: Though this rebound was to be expected — Columbus is a flagship AZA institution, after all — it's certainly a big relief for zoo fans.

What we're watching: An ongoing investigation into the financial scandal by the Ohio Attorney General's Charitable Law Section, which regulates the state's nonprofits. The office hasn't answered our question on when that'll wrap up.

  • Meanwhile, the zoo also recently announced a $50 million capital improvements plan. Over $32 million is earmarked for a significant renovation of the North America area, starting this fall.

Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Columbus.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Columbus stories

No stories could be found


Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Columbus.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more