The Honolulu Zoo has lost its accreditation with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the organization and the city announced today.
The denial of re-accreditation is considered a major setback for the Waikiki attraction and the city, which has been struggling to make improvements to stave off the loss of accreditation.
Loss of accreditation severely hurts the zoo’s reputation and hinders its ability to both breed and bring in exotic animals from elsewhere.
A panel of AZA executives met with Zoo Director Baird Fleming and a team from the zoo Monday in Omaha, Neb., to consider the application.
Shortly after its meeting with Honolulu officials, the AZA panel made its decision, citing lack of an adequate and consistent funding source, an issue the organization had previously highlighted in warning the zoo that it could lose accreditation.
The panel encouraged the Honolulu team to re-apply for accreditation when it addresses its funding situation, although AZA rules require a one-year waiting period before a facility can be eligible to re-apply.
The AZA acknowledged the city for positive steps, including work done on deferred maintenance and the care of animals, and neither appeared to be factors in the decision.
Traveling with Fleming to Omaha were Assistant Zoo Director Linda Santos and city Managing Director Roy Amemiya.
Fleming became the zoo’s fifth director in six years in February 2015. Manuel Mollinedo, one of the former directors, warned publicly following his resignation that a lack of commitment from the city threatened AZA accreditation.
The 42-acre zoo had an operating budget of $5.6 million and 76 employees in the budget year that ended June 30. For fiscal 2017, which begins July 1, Mayor Kirk Caldwell is proposing a $6.8 million operating budget and 86 employee positions. The new positions would include six new animal-keeper jobs.