Thanks to you a better zoo

A changing philosophy is driving community-supported zoo improvements.

Every animal at the Oregon Zoo should have access to the outdoors, see the sky, breathe fresh air and experience wind, rain and sunshine. Every animal should be able to make choices about how he spends his day and with whom. 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.

Oregon Zoo animal keepers have held this philosophy for a long time, but the old zoo facilities constrained them from providing animals with the autonomy and space they each prefer. When the zoo was built, keeping the animals clean and their exhibit spaces sterile was the highest priority. You can see that priority plainly displayed in the old primate building, the elephant barn and the Polar Bears exhibit where concrete floors with drains can be scrubbed and animals can be moved throughout the day with relative ease. But there's a better way...

Today, the Oregon Zoo is undergoing profound change. Over the next 20 years, most of the zoo campus will be revitalized. New construction, renovation and innovation focus on improving animal welfare, increasing sustainability and expanding opportunities for conservation education, turning the zoo's "no animal left indoors" philosophy into reality. Phase one of these changes is funded by the current community-supported bond.

New habitats and facilities focus on animal welfare and care

Over the next few years, expect to see new expanded and enticing habitats for the Asian elephant herd, polar bears, primates and rhinos. Endangered California condors will make their zoo debut in a brand new habitat. The zoo's most urgent priority, the new Veterinary Medical Center, was the first major bond-funded project completed, opening in January, 2012.

New habitats will be larger, made from natural materials and open to the air and sky, with sheltered areas for colder seasons. Flooring will be natural soil, grass or other porous well-drained material. Animals will be able to see outside of their habitats to adjacent exhibits, visitors and other parts of the zoo. Each habitat affords flexibility to accommodate mating, pregnancy, mothers with babies, and a variety of social groupings of each species. Some animals prefer to live fairly solitary lives, some in pairs and some animals live in large groups of aunties, grandmothers, sisters and babies. New habitat will accommodate these choices and be a stimulating, intriguing environment providing animals with daily opportunities for discovery, play and problem solving.

The importance of a master plan

Learn why an excellent master plan is so important for the future of the zoo. See the progress made so far and stay up to date on what happens next.

Sustainability improvements

A green zoo begins with blue water. Learn how the Oregon Zoo is building its master plan around water and energy improvements that will make the new zoo a model of sustainable conservation.

Veterinary Medical Center

Learn about the Veterinary Medical Center, designed for animal healing and care and the first major bond-funded project completed.

Making the most of every dime, drop and kilowatt

The zoo's primary mission is inspiring the community to create a better future for wildlife. What better way to do so than to model for visitors on the zoo grounds sustainable ways of reusing water, managing waste and conserving energy? Wisely using resources reduces impacts on wildlife and habitat around the world. The Oregon Zoo has faced challenges in modeling best practices because of outdated facilities. Some of the zoo's plumbing and wiring is original to the late 1950s. From now on, sustainability will be woven into every new program, pool, pathway and parking space. The zoo already composts animal and food waste and uses water conservatively. Now buildings and facilities will be designed to provide efficient methods and routes to do so from the get go. The new Veterinary Medical Center is a shining example, channeling natural light into work areas and animal enclosures and recycling harvested rainwater. And the newly replaced water system in the Penguinarium is saving millions of gallons each year!

The perfect setting to learn about nature

The zoo shares animal knowledge and conservation ethics with over 100,000 children and adults every year. Managing that many programs and the equipment, animals and vehicles that support them is wildly challenging. The zoo needs a new central site where students can learn and gear can be stashed. But it won't be a school and shouldn't look like one. The new conservation center will outfit students for their zoo adventures, serve as a clearing house for conservation education programs around the region and provide curious zoo visitors with a deeper understanding of the animals that live here, their native habitats and their conservation needs.

Zoo master plan map