AZA Accreditation

Cosley Zoo is proud to be an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).

Becoming accredited is a rigorous process involving a lengthy application, an on-site inspection, and an accreditation hearing. When you visit an AZA-accredited institution, you can be assured that the facility upholds AZA’s strict standards for animal welfare and management, conservation, and education.

AZA accreditation has long been recognized as the national gold standard for animal care and welfare. The rigorous accreditation process involves a meticulous on-site inspection by trained zoo professionals and an interview of top officials at a formal hearing of AZA’s Accreditation Commission. This process must be repeated every five years to continue accreditation. Fewer than 10% of USDA-licensed animal exhibitors are awarded AZA accreditation.

“There really is no such thing as reaccreditation,” says Sue Wahlgren, Cosley Zoo’s Director. “It is like starting over each time. You don’t get any ‘passes’ because you were accredited previously.”

“It is tangible evidence to our visitors, supporters, and other stakeholders that we meet the highest standards,” says Wahlgren. “Accreditation provides us with access to so much great information and resources and attracts the highest quality staff.”

Since opening as the Cosley Children’s Park and Museum in 1974, the zoo has grown significantly, changing its name twice and adding and renovating habitats home to native birds and turtles, pigs, poultry, a bobcat, and more. The Zoo has also created a butterfly garden and relocated its amphitheater to the front lawn for greater accessibility.

But it is the zoo’s conservation programs, ranging from FrogWatch USA to the Blanding’s Turtle Head Start Program, which make the most impact beyond its own five shady acres.

“The things we teach about local conservation are transferable to global issues,” Wahlgren says. “The conservation messages we share will hopefully motivate our visitors to make changes in how they live their lives, which will positively impact habitat[s] from our backyard to local [nature] preserves and anywhere we visit in the world.”

For more information about Cosley Zoo and its commitment to the highest standards of animal care and welfare, please call 630.665.5534, or stop in at 1356 N. Gary Avenue in Wheaton. To learn more about the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, please visit

Frequently Asked Questions

How does a zoo become accredited?
The accreditation process consists of a detailed review and inspection covering all aspects of an institution’s operation including the animal collection, veterinary care, physical facilities, safety, security, finance, staff, governing authority, support organization, involvement in education, conservation, and research, and adherence to AZA policies.

When did Cosley Zoo receive its accreditation?
Cosley Zoo was first accredited in 2000 and has maintained accreditation since then. Accreditation occurs every five years and is a requirement for zoos and aquariums to be members of AZA.

How many zoos and aquariums are accredited?
Of approximately 2,800 USDA licensed wildlife exhibitors, fewer than 10% have achieved AZA accreditation.

Beau the Blanding’s turtle


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