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Tennessee Aquarium Earns Praise During AZA Accreditation
Achievements in Conservation, Education and Exhibits Noted
“The Association of Zoos and Aquariums accredits only those zoos and aquariums that meet the highest standards,” said AZA President and CEO Jim Maddy. “As a proven leader in the care and conservation of wildlife and education outreach, the Tennessee Aquarium is ranked among the best zoos and aquariums in the world.”
To be accredited, the Tennessee Aquarium underwent a thorough review to ensure it has and will continue to meet ever-rising standards, which include animal care, veterinary programs, conservation, education and safety. “Our goal is to always exceed AZA standards,” said Jackson Andrews, the Aquarium’s director of husbandry and operations. “Our experienced staff is committed to thinking strategically about the Aquarium’s educational programs, conservation work and providing a world-class guest experience.”
The accreditation process includes a detailed application and a meticulous on-site inspection by a team of trained zoo and aquarium professionals. The inspecting team observes all aspects of the institution’s operation, including animal care; keeper training; safety for visitors, staff and animals; educational programs; conservation efforts; veterinary programs; financial stability; risk management; visitor services; and other areas. Finally, top officials are interviewed at a formal hearing of AZA’s independent Accreditation Commission.
Following the Aquarium’s review, the AZA inspection team found no major concerns and noted particular achievements in the following areas:
- The exhibits are very interesting to view and extremely well-maintained. The diversity of exhibit themes from numerous freshwater displays, to ocean reef environments, to specialized exhibits that feature turtles, jellyfish and seahorses provide a rich experience for all Aquarium visitors.
- The Tennessee Aquarium has one of the finest (if not THE finest) collections of freshwater aquatic animals in the world.
- The Aquarium has fostered excellent partnerships with a number of government and non-governmental agencies that have resulted in extremely effective Lake Sturgeon, Southern Appalachian Brook Trout and Barrens Topminnow rearing and release programs.
- Staff is extremely friendly, energetic, engaged and enthusiastic.
- Staff and volunteers receive training about the Aquarium’s animals which makes them more engaged and better ambassadors for Aquarium guests.
- The Aquarium buildings and infrastructure are very well maintained and in excellent condition, especially given their size and complexity.
Andrews considers the AZA accreditation process as the gold standard for zoos and aquariums and was particularly pleased with the inspection team’s remarks about the Tennessee Aquarium’s staff and volunteers. “Everyone works hard to present the wonders of the aquatic world to our guests in an engaging and special way. We all get pleasure out of immersing visitors in the experience and seeing their surprise and excitement while they are here spending time with their families.”