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Identity & Community

Aviary Wins Renewed National Accreditation 'For the Birds'

The National Aviary on the North Side has received another five years of accreditation from the National Association of Zoos & Aquariums for its high standards of care and conservation of wildlife.

The aviary has been accredited from the organization for the last 30 years. The process took about a year and included a review of fiscal management, animal care, veterinary programs, conservation, education and safety.

The inspecting team visited the site for inspection and then conducted a formal interview with the AZA’s accreditation commission.

Since the last review, Managing Director Cheryl Tracy said much has changed.

The aviary has added about 270 new birds to its collection as well as a theater where staff educate visitors with live shows. Every half hour visitors can help feed the birds.

As a community asset, Tracy said it’s important visitors know the organization operates under high standards.

“Being recognized as a leader in standards in terms of governance and animal welfare and safety is important and provides a certain level of credibility to the national aviary in maintain those high standards in excellence,” she said.

Accreditation isn’t guaranteed. In the last 10 years, AZA Executive Director Kris Vehrs said 26 institutions have been denied. Vehrs asserts the AZA has the highest standards in the world. The Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium parted ways with the group this summer.

Vehrs commended the aviary staff for their commitment to the animals.

“If I ask each one of the staff I bet you would tell me, ‘Yeah, I got in this business because I love animals. But I’m also really worried about nature and where we’re going’,” she said.

Since the Aviary’s last accreditation, six African penguin chicks have hatched as part of the breeding program -- an extension of the national effort to protect endangered species.

The center is also home to two pairs of endangered Andean condors with hope they will breed in the coming years.