A rigorous, but worthwhile accomplishment

AZA Conference 2022Throughout the past year, the Endangered Wolf Center began the process of earning a renewed certification from the AZA. Of thousands of zoos nation-wide and throughout the world, there are currently only 241 AZA-accredited facilities and 15 AZA-certified facility members throughout the U.S. and 12 other countries. (For a complete list of accredited AZA facilities, please visit their website.)

Accreditation and certification are very similar, but with subtle differences. As a conservation-focused facility that provides educational guided tours, the Endangered Wolf Center falls under the category for certification.

What is AZA?

Founded in 1924, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of zoos and aquariums in the areas of conservation, animal well-being, education, science, and recreation. AZA is the accrediting body for the top zoos and aquariums in the United States and other countries.

The AZA certification process includes a detailed application and a meticulous, on-site, multiple-day inspection by an independent team of expert zoological professionals. The inspecting team analyzes all aspects of the facility’s operation, including animal well-being, veterinary care, keeper training, safety for visitors, staff, and animals, educational programs, conservation efforts, financial stability, risk management, governance, and guest services. Detailed reports from the inspection team and the facility alike are then thoroughly evaluated by the Accreditation Commission. Finally, top officials from the EWC are interviewed by the Accreditation Commission at a formal hearing, after which accreditation is fully granted, provisionally granted for one year, or denied.

During a site visit, interviews, and a panel hearing, the Endangered Wolf Center underwent a thorough review to make sure it has and will continue to meet ever-rising standards that emphasize animal wellbeing, veterinary programs, conservation, education, and safety. AZA requires facilities to complete this rigorous certification process every five years as a condition of Association membership.

“The Endangered Wolf Center is proud to continue as an AZA organization. Certified for more than 20 years, our goal is to not only meet AZA’s high standards, but to exceed them,” said Mark Cross, Executive Director of the Endangered Wolf Center.


“I am proud of our staff, volunteers and supporters who ensure that the EWC can continue with our important mission to save endangered species. Part of our success is being part of the incredible AZA community. Zoos are on the front lines of conservation and the AZA’s SAFE (Saving Animals From Extinction) program and the SSP (Species Survival Plan) has been an incredible resource and partnership for the Center throughout our long history.” Cross continued.

Our staff with our renewed AZA accreditation

During the AZA’s 2022 Conference in Baltimore, Maryland, Endangered Wolf Center representatives Executive Director Mark Cross, Director of Animal Care & Conservation Regina Mossotti, Curator Sarah Holaday, and Board Chair Dr. Rhiannon McKnight provided final testimonies regarding the EWC’s processes and their applications. They were soon notified that they passed the certification process – and with flying colors!

The Endangered Wolf Center is proud to continue as part of an elite group of zoos, aquariums, and conservation organizations that prove each day their commitment to the animals in their care, wildlife, and wild places.

“Our commitment and mission has always included ensuring the best well-being for the animals in our care, working on their behalf to save their species in the wild and to share our passion and knowledge through inspiring educational programs to grow awareness. It was rewarding to go through this inspection and recertification process and see that our team’s hard work was recognized and celebrated,” said Regina Mossotti, Director of Animal Care and Conservation.

So now you know – look for the AZA accreditation logo whenever you visit a zoo or aquarium as your assurance that you are supporting a facility dedicated to providing excellent care for animals, a great experience for you, and a better future for all living things.