BLOOMINGTON — With issues ranging from finances to the fact that its sea lion has no companion, Miller Park Zoo was given a one-year extension on its expired, five-year accreditation to address concerns raised in a June inspection.
The Association of Zoos and Aquariums “tabled” accreditation approval because the zoo has no memorandum of understanding with the Miller Park Zoological Society, a major financial supporter, and lacks the financial support needed to make necessary capital improvements. The AZA also said the zoo’s lone sea lion needs company and the zoo needs written education and conservation plans.
Steve Feldman, spokesman for the AZA, said a one-year extension “is not uncommon.”
“It’s different from year to year, but there’s always a handful that receive this outcome,” he said. “Most institutions, because they’re really focused and (they) really value accreditation … they focus like a laser beam and then are able to be more successful in the process but also as zoological institutions.”
He said accreditation allows zoos to participate with other zoos in a breeding program for endangered species.
The city’s zoo superintendent, Jay Tetzloff, said Bloomington’s facility is already on track to address the association’s concerns. The city is working to finalize a formal agreement with the zoological society outlining responsibilities, he said.
Tetzloff added that the society’s board members received fundraising training through the master planning process that could help address the funding concerns.
A phone call to the zoological society was not returned immediately Tuesday.
The city council on Monday adopted a zoo master plan, paid for mostly by the zoological society.
Tetzloff said the zoo is working within a breeding program to obtain another sea lion and should have education and conservation plans in place before the end of the year.
“We are still an accredited member of the AZA and we still live up to those high standards that AZA zoos must complete and reach every day, and we feel very confident that next year we’ll have a very positive result,” Tetzloff said.
Though the association cited a need for more training in certain areas, it gave high marks to the staff for being “helpful, positive, enthusiastic and professional.” Tetzloff said he will propose additional professional development for the next budget.
The association praised the hiring of a curator, a recommendation in its last accreditation report, and credited Tetzloff for major improvements over the last two years. “The zoo is clearly on an upward trajectory, which is in no small part due to his leadership,” the AZA report said.