BRIDGEPORT — Every five years, the Connecticut Beardsley Zoo in Bridgeport must undergo a rigorous process to prove to the Association of Zoos & Aquariums that it’s among the best of the best when it comes to a variety of topics, including animal welfare and conservation efforts.

The association announced recently that the zoo met all the requirements to renew its accreditation.

During the roughly year-long process, the zoo’s emphasis on animal welfare and care, veterinary programs, conservation and education efforts and safety were reviewed and evaluated.

“AZA’s independent Accreditation Commission grants accreditation only to exceptional zoos and aquariums that have met or surpassed our rigorous, ever-evolving standards,” said Dan Ashe, president and CEO of AZA. “Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo is among the outstanding aquariums and zoos that have met or exceeded our rigorous accreditation standards.”

The Beardsley Zoo has been an accredited AZA member since 1987.

“Accreditation every five years is not automatic, but instead, is a rigorous re-evaluation of our ability to meet AZA standards,” said Gregg Dancho, director of the Beardsley Zoo. “I’m proud to be associated with AZA facilities across the country, helping to sustain endangered species, and educate children and adults in our communities about our critical connection with nature.”

When the AZA begins looking at an institution for its accreditation, it looks at every aspect of the zoo or aquarium.

“It doesn't matter if an institution is new or was previously accredited, standards are high and not every candidate receives accreditation,” said AZA on its website.

The AZA first selects expert Accreditation Commission members to evaluate each zoo and aquarium. The experts are known to be leaders in their fields with years of experience and education in zoo and aquarium operations, animal management and veterinary medicine.

The commission evaluates each zoo and aquarium to make sure it meets AZA standards for animal care and management. In order to be evaluated, every candidate institution fills out a detailed questionnaire. The application takes several months to complete, according to AZA, and about six months to review and evaluate.

Once the commission reviews the application, a team of inspectors visits the zoo or aquarium and spend several days there, combing through every part of the facility and its staff. The inspectors will then pull together a detailed report about what they observed and submit it to the commission, which then reviews all needed documentation and makes a decision.

“Accreditation is not easy to achieve, and it is a testament to the dedication each facility has to the animals they care for and the community they serve,” said Peggy Sloan, chair of the AZA Board of Directors.

AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums must constantly meet AZA’s ever-rising standards — and go through the entire process every five years to maintain their status.

“AZA-accredited facilities exemplify AZA’s mission of protecting wildlife and wild places by providing expert care to hundreds of thousands of animals, educating and inspiring millions of guests, and, in 2018, contributing over $231 million to field conservation efforts,” Ashe said.