PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — It’s a very busy time at the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium as the staff prepares for an important inspection.

The facility is welcoming some special visitors this week.

“It’s kind of like spring cleaning, you know, where you’re just kind of cleaning and purging and getting all the junk out that you really don’t need, so that we can really make the place look sharp,” said Dr. Barbara Baker, the zoo’s CEO. “We don’t change any of our programs, we actually use this as an opportunity to shine.”

The accreditation of zoos is conducted every five years for all AZA member institutions.

The process gives Pittsburgh a chance to take a hard look at what it does well and where it can improve.

“Our collection had grown so much, our focus is so much now on endangered and threatened species that our hospital had not grown to match that,” said Dr. Baker. “So, we just complete and opened our animal care center.”

The four-person inspection team spends four days inspecting all of the zoo’s facilities and interviewing staff.

“The cleanliness of the zoo, the exhibits, behind the exhibits, how the animals are cared for – so we’re looking at the animal husbandry situations. We’re looking into education departments, success or failures of educating, conservation programming,” said Ed Asper, of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. “So, it’s the whole gambit if you will.”

Long before the inspectors arrived in Highland Park, months of paperwork detailed every aspect of the facility.

“Our staff’s been working for the better part of three months really, really hard, and in these last couple weeks, overtime,” said Dr. Baker. “We’re really ready to have them come and inspect. We feel really good about how the facility looks and then we’ll all get a good rest after they are gone.”

The Association of Zoos and Aquariums represents 224 accredited zoos and aquariums in North America, only 10 percent of all facilities on the continent.

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