Originally Posted Online: Oct. 07, 2012, 10:58 pm
Last Updated: Oct. 07, 2012, 11:05 pm

List of Concerns and Achievements from Association of Zoos and Aquariums followup inspections on Aug. 2-3, 2012.

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By Stephen Elliott, selliott@qconline.com


- With only two interior stalls, daily work cannot be accomplished unless the elephants are housed together in one stall, especially during winter.

- Outdoor elephant exhibit does not reflect modern zoological practices in appearance, complexity or minimum recommended space.

- Door operation is not continually monitored to prevent elephant and keeper injury.

- Drinking water is not regularly available in outdoor exhibit.

- Staff do not maintain an appropriate awareness of elephants during close proximity in daily cleaning and husbandry routines, while sharing the same unrestricted space.

- Niabi Zoo is not adequately prepared to deal with an elephant escape or veterinary medical emergency.

- It appears impossible for staff to hoist an elephant, if necessary, in the indoor holding space.

Other Concerns

- Basic feeding and cleaning duties appear to consume nearly all keeper time.

- All animal exhibits were immaculate, and holding areas were spotless. There clearly is great pride taken in these areas.The visiting committee, however, still believes that keepers are not performing many of the duties that keepers in modern zoological parks are expected to perform.

- Outdoor lion barrier fence includes sections that do not appear of sufficient height. During July 2011 inspection, the visiting committee found the hot wire on the lion perimeter fence completely dysfunctional. August 2012 inspection found the hot wire in working order, "but fence measurements were alarming." The visiting committee believes the fence height is inadequate to properly contain the lions and puts visitors and staff at risk.

- No written animal training program.

- Animal records have been deficient in all previous inspections, and they now are, so this concern has been elevated to a New Major Concern. "The VC (visiting committee) believes that without the serious investment of time, resources and professional mentoring of the entire Niabi Zoo staff, this issue is not likely to be rectified any time in the foreseeable future."


- "A large number of new risk management documents and protocols has been created and installed. The amount of work over the past year in this regard has been substantial."

- "The VC appreciated the hard work and accomplishments since the last AZA inspection one year ago. A much-improved morale was observed at the zoo as was a better sense of shared purpose.

- "Niabi Zoo faces additional challenges, but the VC expects this team of dedicated employees to continue moving forward, given the necessary resources to do so.

- Elephants are trained to reliably present Standard Elephant Program Behavioral Components.

- Demolition of outdated bear exhibit was a bold, positive move. Improvements to large cat displays are under way.

- New zoo director (Marc Heinzman) has had a positive impact on staff morale and clearly has gained the support of zoo staff, park management and the zoo society.

- Exemplary housekeeping was observed throughout the zoo.

- Mandy Turnbull also has assumed numerous duties beyond what is expected of an animal handler. She serves a key role in many improvements and current operations.

- Zoo staff were able to address a large number of previous accreditation concerns and produce numerous new policies and programs, including: Animal welfare process, Keeper training check-lists, Behavioral Enrichment Program, Risk management, Preventative maintenance, Education Program Plan, Natural Resource Conservation Program.