WAHPETON, N.D. — The Chahinkapa Zoo's director said the loss of the accreditation by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums will not be noticeable by the public and will have little impact moving forward.
"I'm sure I looked like a deer in headlights," said director Kathy Diekman.
She is referring to her recent reaccreditation meeting with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, when the board brought up items not on the inspectors report from this summer. That included two rhinos who arrived at the zoo injured in 2018, and the recent acquisition of two cheetahs. The board did not like the company from which they were acquired.
"As long as we work with reputable agencies, that is good. We didn't do anything illegal or unethical," Diekman said.
The two-page report included compliments and concerns, but none was considered major. Diekman was praised for her 30 years of operating the zoo. The veterinarian also received commendation for improving preventative care for the animals.
The biggest concern raised by the AZA is that the zoo's musically talented orangutan lives alone. However, the zoo says it has been trying to find another orangutan for years.
Other issues brought up were a lack of fire alarms in a building and some outdated zoo practices, such as its fencing.
"The fence is chain-link because that is what holds up through our winters," Diekman said.
The AZA gave the zoo a Quarter Century Award in 2020. Diekman wants the public to know the AZA is a support organization that they paid to be a part of to help with programs.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the North Dakota Board of Animal Health police the zoo. Diekman said the USDA usually conducts three unannounced visits each year. They have not noted any concerns in seven years.
She welcomes questions from any member of the public who has concerns.
"If they want to find out things, knock on our door. I'll give you a tour, I'll show you around, and it can be anytime if you truly want to see what goes on behind the scenes," she said.
Diekman said the only real impact will be the reciprocity list, which the zoo will now have to create rather than receive an AZA printout. It won't hurt operations, she said, and will actually give the zoo a little more flexibility to do things it has wanted to do to improve and grow.
"We will still be able to get the animals here for our visitors and for conservation and education, and we will still give people a look into the wild. That's what zoos do," Diekman said.
Requests to the AZA for comment were not returned.