John Ball Zoo showing ‘best practices’ to industry


Grand Rapids’ John Ball Zoo features more than 2,000 individual animals. Photo via

Employees from more than 50 North American zoos and aquariums are visiting Grand Rapids for an annual conference.

The Aquarium & Zoo Facilities Association, or AZFA, Annual Conference will bring 150 employees from more organizations in the U.S., Canada and Bermuda.

The conference is Oct. 15-19, primarily at the Amway Grand Plaza, and will provide education, resources and exploration opportunities to the zoo and aquarium staff.

Allmon Forrester, John Ball Zoo’s director of facilities, planning and sustainability, was the person behind bringing the conference to Grand Rapids.

“It’s both humbling and exciting to host this respected and talented group of zoo and aquarium facility experts,” Forrester said. “I’m so happy to showcase our awesome zoo and the great city of Grand Rapids.”

Oct. 18 is the Zoo Day portion of the conference, during which attendees will tour John Ball Zoo and learn the facility’s best practices. One session on the day — The Detroit Zoo’s Poop Power! — will describe how the zoo uses its animal waste to generate electricity.

There will also be a post-conference tour of Binder Park Zoo in Battle Creek.

The conference is not open to the public.


The Aquarium & Zoo Facilities Association is an organization that focuses on enhancing collaboration and information exchange between facilities professionals at zoos, aquariums, parks and similar organizations.

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