East York Mirror
Actions have consequences.
That's the lesson for Toronto Council, which must now be prepared to deal with any fallout from its decision last fall over where to send the Toronto Zoo's elephants.
On Wednesday, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), an American organization, revoked the zoo's accreditation, one that had been held since 1977. The Toronto Zoo will now not be able to re-apply for AZA accreditation until March 1, 2013. The zoo's Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums accreditation is up for renewal in September.
According to a statement from the Toronto Zoo, the AZA cited "the action taken by the City Council regarding the management of animals in the zoo's collection, which is not in compliance" with a number of governing authority standards in its decision to revoke the accreditation.
Last fall, Toronto Council, against the recommendations of the zoo board and staff, voted 31-4 to send the zoo's three remaining elephants to the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) Sanctuary in California. The PAWS Sanctuary is a non-accredited zoological facility.
At that time, the decision raised "serious concerns" on the part of AZA, according to a letter to the zoo board's chair and vice-chair from Donald E. Moore, the chair of the AZA's accreditation commission.
The Toronto zoo was just one of five facilities in Canada with this accreditation before Wednesday. According to the AZA, fewer than 10 per cent of licensed animal exhibitors in the United States have AZA accreditation.
When it comes to how this news will impact the zoo and its visitors, that remains to be seen. Zoo board vice-chair Paul Ainslie, acknowledging the decision is a "black eye," has noted that more than 100 species at the Toronto Zoo are currently on loan from AZA-accredited facilities. The Toronto Zoo currently has a similar number of its own animals on loan to other facilities. It's unclear whether this news will have any impact on the zoo's ability to serve the public, be it through the quantity and diversity of its species on display.
It's too late to reverse council's decision from last October. One can only hope that any impact from this is minimal.
Regardless of how one views accrediting institutions, on some level this does send a message that undermines the zoo's credibility - whether or not it's simply a governance issue.
Toronto's council must be ready to take responsibility should the visitor experience be negatively impacted.