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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, May 5, 2006

Zoo's accreditation hinges on upgrades

By Robbie Dingeman
Advertiser Staff Writer

The Honolulu Zoo's accreditation has been put on hold while the city staff works on some of the issues flagged last month by a team from the American Zoo and Aquarium Association.

The report listed concerns about staffing and the overall look of the zoo "unkempt and cluttered" noted that the glass was dirty in some exhibits and broken in a savanna exhibit, and that some of the exhibits are "antiquated."

Sidney A. Quintal, director of the City Department of Enterprise Services, said the city already has addressed some of the issues, such as tripling the maintenance budget to $1.5 million, and filling vacancies so the 20 percent listed in the report is now outdated and the new figure is closer to 7 percent.

In an April 20 letter, Accreditation Commission Chairman Dennis Pate said the organization's action gives the zoo "notification that concerns exist."

Pate's concerns included:

  • The need to see stronger, more consistent commitment by the city;

  • Insufficient staffing (vacancies need to be filled);

  • Deferred maintenance and general housekeeping;

  • Lack of a long-term maintenance plan;

  • Insufficient opportunities for staff professional development.

    Quintal said the zoo got the message: "Clean up your zoo." He acknowledged that budget cuts had taken a toll and some mess came along with some of the improvements associated with new construction.

    He praised zoo staff for dedication to their core mission.

    "They're passionate animal people rather than managerial/administrative types," he said.

    The report also praised the zoo for some progress, citing:

  • An improving relationship with the current city administration;

  • A "tremendous amount of new construction;"

  • "Admirable" staff dedication and professionalism at all levels;

  • Beautiful plantings and gardens, and effective pest control.

    Pate said the commission is not revoking the current accreditation but did not renew it for another five-year cycle. That means at the end of the year, the commission must accredit or deny the institution. Accreditation can be important because it shows that the zoo meets certain industry standards and clears the way for animal exchanges with other accredited institutions.

    Reach Robbie Dingeman at rdingeman@honoluluadvertiser.com.