Ann Piccininni
Marketing and Communications Assistant, Wheaton Park District
630-510-4987 | [email protected]

November 30, 2021

Wheaton, IL –On November 4, after submitting a detailed application and undergoing a thorough inspection and rigorous assessment, the Wheaton Park District’s Cosley Zoo was granted a continuation of its Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) accreditation, a gold standard designation for the best zoos and aquariums.

The AZA is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of zoos and aquariums in the areas of conservation, education, science, and recreation.

“We strive to meet or exceed the highest standards in all areas of our operation and are pleased that those efforts have once again been recognized by the AZA’s Accreditation Commission,” said Cosley Zoo Director Sue Wahlgren. “Maintaining our AZA accreditation demonstrates our unwavering commitment to animal welfare, conservation, and education, placing Cosley Zoo in the top 10% of zoos and aquariums in the nation.”

Cosley Zoo was initially accredited by the AZA in 2000, a status that has since been continuously maintained. Organizations seeking to maintain AZA membership must go through the entire accreditation process every five years.

The AZA Accreditation Commission reviewed 30 applications for accreditation during its most recent cycle of hearings. Twenty-two of those applicants, including Cosley Zoo, were awarded accreditation.

“The communities where these 22 zoos and aquariums are located should be proud their local aquarium, zoo or nature center is among the best zoological facilities in the world,” said AZA President and CEO Dan Ashe.

AZA is the independent accrediting organization for the best zoos and the best aquariums in America and the world, assuring the public that when they visit an AZA-accredited facility, it meets the highest standards for animal care and welfare.

Less than 10 percent of the 2,800 wildlife exhibitors licensed by the United States Department of Agriculture under the Animal Welfare Act meet the comprehensive standards of AZA accreditation.

Zoos and aquariums seeking accreditation are visited by a team of trained zoological professionals that observe facility operations. Inspectors assess measures taken to ensure animal welfare and well-being. Veterinary care, staff training, safety, educational programs, conservation efforts, financial stability, risk management, governance, and guest services are also evaluated.

Detailed reports from the inspection team are reviewed by the Commission, which then interviews each applicant organization’s top officials at a formal hearing.

Accreditation standards are frequently changed and made more stringent.

“The process to receive AZA accreditation is rigorous and continues to include ever-increasing standards to ensure that animals’ best interests are always first and foremost,” Ashe said. “We are excited and proud to have these top-notch zoos and aquariums as AZA members.”