Mission

The Oregon Zoo inspires the community to respect animals and take action on behalf of the natural world. We do this by creating engaging experiences and advancing the highest level of animal welfare, environmental literacy and conservation science.

No animal left indoors

Every animal at the Oregon Zoo should live outdoors under the sky, breathe fresh air and experience wind, rain and sunshine. Every animal should be able to make choices about how and with whom to spend his day. Each animal should be able to live alone or in a family or social group appropriate to her species and gender, by choice, as she would in a wild habitat.

In the 1950s, when the zoo moved to its current location, keeping animals clean and their exhibit spaces sterile were the highest priorities. In the last half-century, the science of wildlife care and management has evolved far beyond this "keep it clean" mindset into one that embraces naturalistic habitats and animal enrichment that stimulates both the body and the mind.

The Oregon Zoo bond measure, approved by voters in 2008, provides the means for the zoo to put its vision for animals into practice, by improving its oldest facilities and adding new ones:

  • a state-of-the-art Veterinary Medical Center, opened in 2012.
  • an improved elephant habitat, expanded from 1.5 to 6 acres and a potential, larger acreage for elephants at a remote site
  • improved habitats for polar bears and primates
  • an efficient water filtration system for penguins
  • a new California condor habitat on grounds

New habitat highlights

  • Larger spaces made from natural materials, open to the air and sky, with sheltered areas for colder seasons.
  • Natural soil, grass or other porous, well-drained flooring.
  • Access to vistas. As in nature, animals can scan the horizon to see beyond their habitats to adjacent exhibits, visitors and other parts of the zoo.
  • Flexible design to accommodate mating, pregnancy, mothers with babies and various social groupings of each species.
  • Some animals prefer fairly solitary lives, some live in pairs and others live in large groups of aunts, grandmothers, sisters and babies.
  • A stimulating, intriguing environment that gives animals daily opportunities to discover, play and problem-solve.

Visitors and learners

The Oregon Zoo is also a place for humans. Each year, 1.6 million visitors come to the zoo. The bond measure allows the zoo to not only improve animal exhibits but also walkways, train routes and educational facilities. Learn more about the bond measure.

More than 100,000 children and adults learn about animals and conservation ethics from zoo staff and volunteers each year. A new conservation center will be a central site for all education programs, at the zoo and in the community. It will outfit students for their zoo adventures, serve as a clearinghouse for conservation education programs around the Pacific Northwest region, store education materials for offsite presentations, and provide zoo visitors with a deeper understanding of the animals in their habitat.

Sustainability

The Oregon Zoo is one of the greenest zoos in the country. Funds from the 2008 bond measure ensure that every new zoo project is designed and constructed to minimize use of natural resources, conserve energy and water and recycle waste through such steps as harvesting and reusing rainwater, channeling natural light, composting animal waste and more. Learn more about the zoo's many innovations in sustainable operations.