A safe haven
Mark Shaffer, executive director of the Delaware Zoological Society (which oversees Brandywine Zoo) was a friendly and compassionate tour guide who takes a lot of pride in the initiatives at the zoo. I wasn’t aware there are a few ways in which the animals come to stay at the Brandywine Zoo.
“We are an AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums) accredited zoo so we have access to a network of zoos around the country, sometimes we lend out the animals, sometimes we take them in, and sometimes it’s a permanent arrangement. Our capybara Candace is the world’s largest rodent; she was from a family who had a bunch of capybaras and they didn’t get along and she was being picked on so we took her from the family and now we have her here, and the kids just love her!”
When I commented on how wonderful it is that these rescues have a safe environment to live out their lives, Shaffer responded, “We benefit too because we love these animals!”
What is the AZA?
A zoo applying for accreditation from the AZA must go through an extensive application process (including a commission to tour the zoo ON SITE for several days) to meet the AZA’s standards for:
- Animal management and care (living environments, social groupings, health, and nutrition)
- Enrichment strategies to stimulate each animal’s natural behavior and provide variety in their daily routine.
- Veterinary program
- Conservation and research
- Education programs
- Safety policies and procedures
- Physical facilities
- Guest services
- Quality of the institution’s staff
- Finances and support organization
Brandywine Zoo is 1 of 200 zoos nationwide to receive an accreditation from the AZA!
Wanna be a party animal?
While I was touring the zoo, Shaffer was eager to show me the new Madagascar Pavilion, which looks over the grounds, and an exhibit focused on the island of Madagascar. The exhibit will host 3 species of lemurs (who are new to the zoo and currently quarantining), tortoise, guinea fowl and will open mid November. The Madagascar Pavilion is also ideal for cocktail hours, parties, and small weddings and is open air on 3 sides (which can be winterized depending on the needs of the event). It seemed like the perfect place to host an upcoming, small event in a safe way that respects the comfort level of all your guests!
The zoo was definitely a memorable experience, and I was impressed at the lengths Brandywine Zoo took to make sure social distancing and safety were emphasized. The event is capped to 30% of the zoo’s capacity, resulting in a lot of space to move around and feel comfortable. They also gave gift bags out at the end as guests were leaving, instead of the trick-or-treat style they’ve adopted in the past. Although “Boo at the Zoo” is sold out for the year, the zoo is open year round! Stop by for a visit and “Go a little wild!”