At a work session Tuesday afternoon, interim Oregon Zoo director Teri Dresler updated the Metro Council on the results of a July visit by a team of experts and peers from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the professional organization that sets standards for zoos across the country.
The Oregon Zoo undergoes routine AZA accreditation inspections every five years – its next review is scheduled for 2015 – and Dresler said the zoo asked AZA for an early diagnostic visit this summer to evaluate staffing, management, training and other protocols.
"As we anticipated, their report was very positive overall and confirmed the great work our team does every day," Dresler said. "They applauded the passion, skills and knowledge of zoo staff, the dedication of the Oregon Zoo Foundation – and the strong emphasis placed on quality of life for all the animals in our care."
Dresler said the report also noted the Oregon Zoo’s rapid growth from a small local zoo to a "larger, more complex and globally-recognized operation,” and identified some growing pains associated with this quick rise.
Recommendations from the AZA team included a transition to the Incident Command System for emergency responses; a strategic assessment of veterinary staffing levels; clarification of staff roles and responsibilities; and continued work to improve relations among Metro, the zoo and the zoo foundation.
"Most of the issues they called out are ones we had previously identified and have already been addressing," Dresler said. "So it was good to get that validation that we’re on the right track."
Dresler noted that the July reinstatement of zoo veterinarian Mitch Finnegan was commended by the AZA experts, and noted that the zoo has received more than 100 applications for its newly created hospital manager position, for which it will soon be interviewing six top candidates.
"It’s not a completely rosy picture," Dresler said. "Clearly, we have a lot of hard work ahead of us. But at the same time I am confident that we are headed in the right direction."