published Monday, March 21st, 2011

AZA orders ‘progress check for zoo accreditation

Dead animals

• A gekko died in November

• A tortoise died in December

• A male muntjac, an Asian deer, died in mid-December

• Two marmosets died in late December

• A tortoise died in early January

• A female muntjac died the second week of January

• Two snow leopard cubs died or were stillborn in the second week of January

• Hank the chimpanzee was found dead Jan. 24.

Source: Chattanooga Zoo officials

Chattanooga Zoo officials on Sunday morning announced that the Association of Zoos and Aquariums will have “a progress recheck” in September, and meanwhile the zoo continues as an accredited organization.

“The AZA inspectors found no medical or management connection between six of eight deaths,” that occurred between November and January, zoo spokeswoman Robin Derryberry said in a news release. Derryberry also serves on the Friends of the Zoo board.

She said the inspectors found that two tortoise deaths “appeared to come from substandard winter housing which has now been corrected.”

Two marmosets, a type of monkey, died from “significant liver disease and weight loss that originated or predated the administrative error which caused the animals to go unfed for two days in January.”

The other four deaths “were found to be an unfortunate series of unrelated events,” Derryberry said.

She added that inspectors noted they were “concerned that the Zoo needs to ... immediately finish a new tortoise exhibit and holding building by next winter to allow the tortoises to have improved winter housing.”

Zoo officials, who met in private with AZA on Saturday, did not release the report itself.

A similar January inspection by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service confirmed problems that could have contributed to at least four of 10 animal deaths. Those included the marmosets and two snow leopard cubs that were born outside in bad weather while the parents were locked outside the den. The USDA report also noted a shortage of hay — food for a number of zoo animals.

The Friends of the Zoo operates the facility under a five-year contract with Chattanooga worth not less than $639,000 a year.

The Association of Zoos and Aquariums, a nonprofit zoo and aquarium trade and membership association, inspected the zoo earlier this month after receiving requests to do so.

AZA normally inspects every five years for accreditation renewals, according to AZA spokesman Steve Feldman. The Chattanooga Zoo is accredited through 2013, according to Derryberry.

After the recheck in September, accreditation commissioners could set another recheck date, allow the zoo’s regular five-year accreditation to continue through 2013 or cancel accreditation.

about Pam Sohn...

Pam Sohn has been reporting or editing Chattanooga news for 25 years. A Walden’s Ridge native, she began her journalism career with a 10-year stint at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. She came to the Chattanooga Times Free Press in 1999 after working at the Chattanooga Times for 14 years. She has been a city editor, Sunday editor, wire editor, projects team leader and assistant lifestyle editor. As a reporter, she also has covered the police, ...

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