Topeka Zoo Announces Hope of AZA Accreditation

…which used to be a violation of the accrediting process


As they prepare for the arrival of a second Sumatran tiger later this month, Topeka Zoo officials are getting ready for a three-day visit next week from a group that ultimately will determine its status with a national accreditation agency.


Topeka Zoo director Brendan Wiley made the announcement during a Wednesday morning news conference during which a wide range of topics were touched upon.


Wiley said Wednesday was chosen as the day to provide an update on zoo activities because it marked the second birthday of Hope, a female giraffe born with a congenital hoof deformity that survived thanks to innovative treatment and surgeries performed by then-interim zoo veterinarian Joe Kamer.


At the time Hope was born, the Topeka Zoo was reeling from the deaths of several of its animals and assertions that called into question its policies and procedures.


The turmoil led to the resignation of the zoo’s previous director, Mike Coker, in December 2009.


Wiley arrived in May 2010 with the mission of setting the zoo back on course. He quickly won over the Topeka community with his candor and transparency, along with his up-beat, can-do attitude focused on turning the zoo around.


Now, Wiley is hopeful the three-member panel representing the Association of Zoos and Aquariums will agree during its visit next week that the Topeka Zoo has made sufficient progress in putting animal health as a top priority, and also for implementing guidelines that ensure the animals’ well-being.


Wiley said the visit by AZA officials will provide the Topeka Zoo with “a good reality check” on its progress. Officials from the San Antonio Zoo, the Fort Wayne, Ind., Zoo, and the Sedgwick County Zoo in Wichita will visit the Topeka Zoo for the AZA.


Also to be discussed in coming weeks and months will be the disposition of the Topeka Zoo’s two elephants.


Wiley said the decision on what to do with the elephants will be based on the animals’ best interests and will be made at the local level by city and zoo officials.


Wednesday’s news conference was staged from a large metal crate, which will be used to transport a 2 1/2-year-old female Sumatran tigress named Jinga, on loan from the Sacramento., Calif., zoo, to the Topeka Zoo.


Jinga is in quarantine at the Rolling Hills Wildlife Adventure in Salina. She is to be transported to the Topeka Zoo in a few weeks, where she will be introduced to Rojo, a 3-year-old male Sumatran tiger already at the Topeka Zoo.


If all goes well, the two tigers — who are members of a vanishing species — will mate and have offspring, said Dennis Dinwiddie, education curator for the Topeka Zoo.


“We’re hoping to hear the pitter-patter of little tiger cub feet here at the Topeka Zoo,” Dinwiddie said.


Also discussed was the up-coming Brew at the Zoo event, which will take place from 6 to 10 p.m. Saturday. The event, for adults 21 and older, will feature beer samples from seven local micro-breweries. A crowd of 450 is anticipated.


Tickets are $25 per person and are available at or by calling (785) 272-7595.