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 $81 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.
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 at the outset of the 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 has now been met and exceeded, and the funds are being put to use.
In addition, the foundation’s board of trustees holds $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 to the zoo from the Oregon Zoo Foundation is $2 million. It does not appear likely that the zoo will receive any significant relief from local, state or regional government. The best available evidence suggests that this crisis will be ongoing for the foreseeable future, which means millions more are needed.
Why does the zoo need so much help?
In a recent New Yorker article, zoo deputy director Sheri Horiszny describes some of the logistical hurdles: “… imagine if you have a dinner party with six to ten guests, and one is lactose intolerant, another has a gluten allergy, and a third is philosophically vegetarian.… We have two thousand ‘guests’ from two hundred and twenty species with different dietary needs. So every day we have a challenge meeting those needs.”
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?
The zoo receives a fixed sum of money from Metro each year, which represents about one-third of the zoo’s annual budget. The zoo is responsible for raising the rest of its needed revenue through admissions, concessions, contributions and special events; and, the Oregon Zoo Foundation, via a generous community of donors, members and corporate partners, plays an important role in securing the financial stability of the zoo.
The zoo began this fiscal year with strong reserves, but they 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. We know that when we are able to safely open, operations will be different.
To reopen, it will cost an additional $1.7 million for the fiscal year in added staffing and supplies, with a 50% reduction in revenues expected due to reduced visitor flow. Not only is the zoo addressing immediate needs but it 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.
- Make a gift today
- Consider making a monthly donation to your zoo, because small steps lead to big change! Simply select “make this a monthly gift” – the process is easy and automated.
- See if your employer has a matching gift program
- Share the Care with a symbolic animal adoption
- Become a champion for wildlife and join our Conservation Circle
- Leave a bequest gift or gift of stock
- Become a member or renew your membership (all current Oregon Zoo memberships will be extended by the amount of time that we are closed)
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 Passage. Learn more.
When will the zoo reopen?
We don't have a confirmed date, but we are working closely with public health agencies to plan and prepare for reopening when it is safe to do so. The health and safety of our guests, the animals in our care and our employees continue to be our top priorities. Look for updates in our weekly eTracks newsletter, on social media and on the zoo website.
I have a zoo membership and the zoo is closed, what can I do?
We will extend memberships by the amount of time we are closed while your membership is active. This unprecedented closure has put a significant financial hardship on the zoo. Please consider donating your membership extension to the zoo by keeping your original expiration date. We will email instructions for requesting an extension once the zoo has reopened.
Stay connected: If we do not have your current email, please notify us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Membership cards will not be reprinted. New membership card printing has been temporarily suspended.