Transforming the heart of the zoo, thanks to you

April 23, 2018 - 9:55am

Change on the way as zoo enters homestretch of community-supported bond projects

The welfare of the animals in our care is at the heart of everything we do every day. Decades ago, the Oregon Zoo established animal welfare as our guiding principle. In 1974, we were the second zoo in the country to be accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (there are now more than 200) and animal welfare is the core of accreditation standards.

Great animal care involves both art and science. We base our work on the best science and invest our passion and creativity in providing our animals with optimal foods, top-notch veterinary care, stimulating activities, and habitats that support each species' needs. We use scientific methods as well as our deep familiarity with our animals to monitor them throughout the day — all to support their physical, social and emotional health and natural behaviors.

In 2008, when we reached out to you for support, we were struggling to maintain these standards because many of our facilities dated to the zoo's opening in the 1950s and were antiquated and dilapidated. Through your generous support of a public bond we've completed five of eight major projects including custom-designed habitats for elephants and condors, a state-of-the-art veterinary clinic, a new conservation education center, and modern systems that save money, water and energy.

Now, we're about to break ground on the final three projects, which will transform the very heart of the zoo. This summer, you'll see construction fences go up and old buildings come down as the first steps to replacing outdated facilities with new expansive and stimulating habitats for primates, polar bears and rhinos.

The old primate building will be demolished and replaced with a large, adaptable multi-level habitat for an expanded family of chimps. With two outdoor habitats and an indoor atrium, chimps will have more choices about who they hang out with plus stimulating activities that change every day. Large viewing windows will bring visitors within inches of these highly intelligent and socially complex great apes. You'll learn about similarities between chimps and orangutans, their remarkable differences, threats they face from deforestation and meaningful actions you can take to conserve their habitats.

Right across the path, at Polar Passage, polar bears will roam over rolling meadows and rock outcrops, and plunge into saltwater pools. Visitors can come eye to eye with the bears and witness conservation science in the making, as keepers demonstrate the zoo's work collecting critical data for scientists in the Arctic.

The third project is an expansion of the rhino habitat, replacing the former hippo area. The new habitat will provide more space, better viewing and opportunities for rhino breeding.

Construction fencing will encircle all three areas because we're treating this as a single construction project, saving construction time and costs and making this big remodeling project much more efficient.

While we're under construction, there will be plenty to see and do across the zoo. And when these three new habitats open in 2020, together we will have completely transformed more than 40 percent of the zoo campus. You've helped us keep our promise — to our animals, to ourselves and to you — that we will constantly strive for excellence in the care and welfare of our animals.

Dr. Don Moore
Director, Oregon Zoo