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Columbus Zoo Loses Accreditation a Day After Naming New President and CEO

Taijuan Moorman Taijuan Moorman Columbus Zoo Loses Accreditation a Day After Naming New President and CEOPhoto by Grahm S. Jones.
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The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium was recently denied accreditation by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA), which cited “issues of financial mismanagement” as well as a record of “intentional and repeated animal transfers” of baby animals for entertainment purposes.

This comes a day after the zoo announced Tom Schmid as its next president and CEO.

In a press release, the AZA said the “long record of intentional and repeated animal transfers with non-AZA members intended to supply baby animals – mainly big cats – for entertainment purposes” was even more concerning than the misuse of zoo assets by its former CEO Tom Stalf and former CFO Greg Bell, first reported on by the Columbus Dispatch in March. Stalf and Bell resigned following reviews.

“I am confident the leadership and Board of Directors at Columbus are taking these matters seriously, and in fact, they have already instituted significant changes,” Dan Ashe, AZA president and CEO, said in a statement. “Yesterday’s news about the selection of Tom Schmid as their new president and CEO is welcome and encouraging. However, the Commission felt that additional time will be required to let these and other changes take hold.”

“To the employees of Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, we acknowledge your good work,” the statement goes on to say. “We hope to see Columbus Zoo and Aquarium and you back within our community soon.”

The Columbus Zoo has said it will appeal the decision.

On Tuesday, it was announced the zoo’s board of directors voted Schmid, who is currently the CEO of Texas State Aquarium in Corpus Christi, to lead the zoo. Schmid begins his new leadership role on Dec. 6.

“Tom Schmid is widely acclaimed throughout the zoo and aquarium industry to be extremely smart, ethical and passionate about zoos and wildlife conservation,” said Zoo Board Chairman Keith Shumate in the press release. “I believe that we have found an individual with the experience to lead this zoo and take it to the next level. I am excited for this community to get to know him and for the Columbus Zoo to move forward under his leadership.”

Schmid plans to spend his first 90 days “listening and learning from staff, volunteers, donors, community partners, and local leaders.”

“I’m humbled and honored to work alongside this incredible team and to become part of the Central Ohio community,” said Schmid. “What captured my interest—the culture of conservation at the Zoo and The Wilds—is working with rare and endangered species; the staff expertise in animal care and welfare; and the diversified portfolio of parks. This is an extraordinary organization with an exceptional team.”

Schmid follows interim director Jerry Borin, who came out of retirement from the Columbus Zoo to lead the organization in April.

Visit columbuszoo.org for more information.

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