By Shannon Smith, Teknovation Assistant Editor, PYA
A year and a half after opening its long-awaited, animal-shaped-handle-clad doors, Zoo Knoxville’s Clayton Family Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Campus (ARC) is being awarded for its design.
The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) gave the ARC ‘Top Honors’ in the ‘Best Exhibit’ category for “excellence in design innovation” at the 2022 AZA Annual Conference.
Zoo Knoxville said this award means the ARC is recognized as one of the top zoo exhibits in the world.
If you’ve been to the ARC, it’s easy to see why. You start out walking in a humid climate under a sloth and between pools of turtles and alligators. Then it’s on to the reptile room surrounded by frogs, lizards, and snakes that will both shock and intrigue you. Then you head outside to a tropical conservatory that includes a window inside to science labs.
“To win one of these awards an AZA-accredited aquarium or zoo must reach the very pinnacle of achievement,” said Dan Ashe, President and Chief Executive Officer at AZA. “From Zoo Knoxville to the Cali Zoo in Colombia, the range and breadth of talent on display is impressive, and a testament to the professionalism and commitment of all involved. Each facility recognized here is committed to saving wildlife and wild places and enriching their respective communities.”
Zoo Knoxville has an international reputation when it comes to experts in amphibian and reptile conservation. Since the ARC opened in April 2021, it’s been hailed as “one of the top conservation centers in the country working to save threatened and endangered species,” specifically some species of turtles and tortoises.
“Only the top 10% of zoos and aquariums in 12 countries meet the standards to be accredited by the AZA, and we are incredibly proud to be recognized as one of the best of the best,” said Lisa New, Zoo Knoxville President and Chief Executive Officer. “The real credit goes to our community and our donors who shared the vision for the ARC and made it a reality. Zoo Knoxville is significantly impacting the future for many endangered animals and our visitors are directly supporting that conservation work every time they come to the ARC.”
New said one of the most rewarding things about the ARC, aside from its conservation efforts, is seeing how children interact with and gain an appreciation for reptiles. There are lots of ways to touch and interact with displays within the 2.5-acre ARC campus for kids and adults alike.
The ARC is open every day during normal zoo hours, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.