HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - The Hattiesburg Zoo holds itself to a high standard when it comes to taking care of their animals as well as the enjoyment of their guests, which is why the zoo is applying for accreditation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
“I think that it will show that we are, which I believe we are, of the same level of the San Diego Zoo, the Henry Dorley Zoo, the Tampa Zoo, Bush Gardens, Sea World," said Rick Taylor, executive director of the Hattiesburg Convention Commission, which oversees the zoo’s operation. "I believe we are of that level and that stamp of approval will say, ‘Yes, we are.’”
The process includes an application along with bringing in some of the best minds in the zoo world for critiques.
The Hattiesburg Zoo did apply for accreditation last year and made it to the final interview process, but some concerns about the number of animals at the zoo without having a full-time veterinarian and lack of documentation to show a track record of animal care led to the committee asking for some changes.
So, Taylor and his team hired a full-time vet and a director of animal care to correct those issues.
“The most common problem with a zoo when it’s seeking accreditation is its financial condition and financial future, as well as the operational culture, the culture of its staff," Taylor said. “And they said the culture of the Hattiesburg Zoo staff were exceptional.”
With those changes being made and a solid foundation, the zoo is hopeful this time around they will be accepted.
The zoo does receive an annual USDA check, which is what allows them to operate as a zoo. With accreditation, the zoo will be at a higher standard than the average zoo.