TAMPA — The reputation of Lowry Park Zoo suffered a blow last year when an accrediting agency gave it a year to improve its facilities.
On Monday, the Lowry Park Zoological Society board of trustees announced the zoo is succeeding in renovations and has re-earned accreditation from the Association of Zoos & Aquariums.
The stamp is a major seal of approval. Fewer than 10 percent of the 2,400 zoos and animal exhibitors licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture around the country are accredited by the association.
Lowry Park was accredited by the association for years but ran into trouble in March 2010 when the association gave the zoo a year to improve its older facilities.
Among the changes the association wanted to see were improvements to the veterinary hospital, manatee hospital and boardwalk area, as well as more educational signs interpreting conservation for kids. The association had no concerns about animal or visitor safety.
The zoo was allowed to remain accredited while it made those improvements.
In the past year, the Lowry Park Zoological Society launched a $10 million campaign to raise money for improvements to address the concerns. More than half of the campaign goal has been pledged so far, zoo officials said in a statement.
The zoo is in the design and development phase for a veterinary hospital and a conservation and animal science complex. Renovations also are under way at the zoo's Lykes Florida Wildlife Center and boardwalk.
The steps were enough to persuade the Association of Zoos & Aquariums to recertify the zoo.
"It means a great deal that our AZA colleagues support and recognize the extraordinary effort of zoo staff and volunteers to meet and exceed the highest industry standards," said Craig Pugh, executive director and CEO of the zoo, in a statement.
The facilities the nonprofit organization endorses undergo a review every five years that includes a detailed written application, as well as on-site inspections. Lowry Park Zoo was first accredited in 1989.