POWELL — The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium announced recently the zoo has been granted accreditation by the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks & Aquariums (AMMPA), an international association and accrediting body specializing in marine mammals. Columbus Zoo leadership was notified of this prestigious achievement following a comprehensive two-day, on-site inspection of the Zoo’s manatee, polar bear, sea lion, and harbor seal facilities by a team of experienced zoological professionals.
Marine mammals are classified into four taxonomic groups: cetaceans (whales, dolphins, and porpoises); pinnipeds (sea lions, seals, and walruses); sirenians (manatees and dugongs); and marine fissipeds (polar bears and sea otters). AMMPA’s mission is to support the highest standards of care for these species and contribute to their conservation through public education, conservation, scientific research, and rescue and rehabilitation of sick and injured animals in their native range. With member facilities in the U.S., Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean, Europe, and Asia, AMMPA members collectively possess the largest body of marine mammal expertise and experience in the world.
The Columbus Zoo had planned for several years to apply for accreditation through AMMPA but decided to wait until the new region, Adventure Cove (home of the sea lions and harbor seals), opened in July 2020. That way, all of the zoo’s marine mammal facilities would be inspected as part of the accreditation.
In January 2020, at the invitation of AMMPA leadership, representatives of the Columbus Zoo’s Animal Care team gave a formal presentation to AMMPA, who then voted to approve the zoo to apply for accreditation. The process was temporarily delayed due to the COVID-19 global pandemic, and the inspection was able to move forward in October 2021. In addition to evaluating the Columbus Zoo’s marine mammal facilities, the two-person AMMPA accreditation inspection team met with many departments at the Columbus Zoo to thoroughly review the zoo’s marine mammal protocols and programs.
“We are extremely proud to earn accreditation through AMMPA, especially when this is our first time going through the process. This accreditation is a true testament of our team’s dedication to providing our marine mammals with the best possible care and welfare, and to our commitment to public education and initiatives protecting these species in their native ranges,” said Dr. Jan Ramer, Senior Vice President of Animal Care and Conservation.
“The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium has a strong commitment to animal welfare, a beautiful, state-of-the-art facility, and an impressive dedication to conservation and research. We are proud to welcome them into the AMMPA community of accredited facilities,” said AMMPA President & CEO Kathleen Dezio. “Marine mammals in their native ranges today are threatened at unprecedented levels from pollution, ship strikes, entanglement in fishing debris, novel diseases, and prey scarcity. The work conducted with marine mammals in aquariums, zoos, and marine parks is more important than ever to help protect them and their ocean habitats in the future.”
To be accredited, AMMPA facilities must meet or exceed rigorous standards covering 11 different areas ranging from animal health, animal welfare, training and enrichment, to water and environmental quality, breeding, transportation, education, and scientific research and conservation. The Alliance Accreditation Standards and Guidelines, which are considered to be the most comprehensive standards in the world for the care of marine mammals, are based on the expertise of veterinarians, trainers, and animal care specialists who work with marine mammal parks and aquariums. The standards are meant to optimize the health and welfare of and environmental conditions for marine mammals in human care, while also maximizing their educational and scientific impact.
AMMPA-accredited facilities must demonstrate they meet the requirements every five years through another in-depth, two-day inspection.
Submitted by the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.