Emergency recovery at the Oregon Zoo

FAQ: Emergency recovery at the Oregon Zoo


What is the role of the Oregon Zoo Foundation?

The Oregon Zoo Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Our mission is to foster community pride and involvement in the Oregon Zoo and to secure financial support for the zoo’s conservation, education and animal welfare programs. Currently, our primary focus is to secure critical financial support for the zoo during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since its inception in 1997, the foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, has funded more than $84 million for animal welfare, conservation, capital infrastructure and other important initiatives at the zoo. A gift to the Oregon Zoo Foundation is an investment in the future of our natural world.

Yearly financials and additional information

What is the foundation doing to help the zoo during the COVID-19 pandemic?

The Oregon Zoo and Oregon Zoo Foundation are so grateful to our generous zoo supporters for their help throughout this crisis.

The zoo closed on March 17 to help slow the spread of COVID-19. In April, we launched an Emergency Recovery Fund to help with critical cash-flow needs created by the closure. The purpose was to provide $1 million in short-term cash to support important animal nutrition, medical and engaging daily care. Thanks to strong community support, that initial goal was met and exceeded, and the funds were put to use.

In addition, the foundation’s board of trustees maintained a $1 million reserve for “unforeseen zoo emergencies.” In April, the board voted to release that money to the zoo in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting closure.

As of June 1, the total amount of emergency support dedicated to the zoo from the Oregon Zoo Foundation was $2 million, in addition to funds raised for strategic priorities and animal habitats. The zoo received some relief from Metro and the state, but it does not anticipate being eligible for any additional federal funds. The best available evidence suggests that this crisis will be ongoing for the foreseeable future, which means millions more are needed.

The outpouring of support the foundation has received from generous members, donors and corporate sponsors has made a big difference to the zoo during this difficult time. 

Why does the zoo need so much help?

It costs more than $120,000 a day to operate the zoo under normal circumstances; even at our current modified budget it costs around $77,000 per day, including around $43,000 a day for animal care. During a “typical” disaster scenario like a flood or an earthquake, animals could be relocated to other zoos until the local situation stabilizes. In the current pandemic, every accredited zoo and aquarium in the world is facing a similar financial crisis, making this event unique and unprecedented in scale.

How is the zoo funded?

As an enterprise fund within Metro, the zoo is responsible for planning and managing its financial security. The zoo receives a fixed sum of money from Metro each year, which before COVID-19 represented about one-third of its annual operating budget. Earned revenue through admissions, concessions, contributions and special events accounted for about 60% of zoo operating revenue. With thanks to a generous community of donors, members and corporate partners, the Oregon Zoo Foundation supported about 10% of zoo operations.

The zoo began the last fiscal year (FY 2019-20) with strong reserves, but those reserves have been rapidly depleting since the closure. It takes around $2.2 million per month for the zoo to operate in the current reduced-operations format.

Revenues are 50% below what the zoo expects during normal operations because of reduced visitor flow mandated by COVD-19 safety protocols. While addressing immediate needs, the zoo must also prepare for a potential resurgence of the virus that may produce an extended or additional closure. For all of these reasons, the Oregon Zoo Foundation is working with its supporters to raise additional critically needed funds to sustain the zoo through this crisis.

Your support is critical! You can help our animal-care teams continue their vital work.

Is the zoo construction still happening?

Yes! Despite the zoo closure, our construction team remains hard at work completing these projects, and they are making great progress.

The foundation’s Heart of the Oregon Zoo campaign is underway to support these new habitats. We are raising $8.5 million to support not only the construction but also $5 million of strategic investments in education, conservation and animal welfare. Explore our first campaign newsletter, which focused on Polar PassageLearn more.

The Oregon Zoo is open

We're excited to welcome you back, and we're working to keep your experience safe and healthy. Here's what to expect when you visit. Members: find membership FAQs and more here. 

These guidelines are subject to change as situations evolve. We recommend you check for updates to this page before your visit.

Stay connected: If we do not have your current email, please notify us at membership@oregonzoo.org. Membership cards will not be reprinted. New membership card printing has been temporarily suspended.