Rated as the number one zoo in the country by USA Today, the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden attracts over 1.8 million visitors each year. This is quite an impressive feat for a city with a metropolitan area of 2 million. The Cincinnati Zoo is the second-oldest zoo in the United States, opening in 1875, shortly after the Philadelphia Zoo opened in July 1874. One of the oldest nonprofit organizations in Cincinnati and the number one attraction in the Tri-State area, the Cincinnati Zoo has an estimated annual economic impact of $143 million. The Zoo is heavily involved in the community, featuring various camps and education programs, as well as the country’s first full-time zoological high school.
But the Cincinnati Zoo’s impact stretches far beyond the city itself. The Zoo is internationally recognized for its conservation and breeding efforts, with direct involvement in over 30 research and conservation projects across the globe. They are especially recognized for their success breeding the critically endangered Sumatran Rhino. In 2015, the Cincinnati Zoo’s Lindner Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW) relocated the last rhino of this species in the Western Hemisphere to the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary (SRS) in Indonesia to give him the opportunity to breed and contribute to the dwindling population, as featured in a National Geographic article in September 2018.
The Zoo has also been recognized as the Greenest Zoo in America. It has saved more than a billion gallons of water in the last decade by collecting and using rainwater for irrigation, moats, waterfalls and pools in habitats such as the hippo, penguin and polar bear. The Zoo also uses a variety of high-efficiency energy and lighting systems, such as the water filtration system at Hippo Cove – home to the world-famous Fiona – with the indoor building powered by a solar panel array.
Last June, the Zoo launched a $150 million capital campaign called More Home to Roam. The ambitious campaign kicked off with an anchor gift of $50 million from Harry & Linda Fath, pledged to encourage support from all Cincinnatians by matching their gifts! As Harry Fath put it, “Linda and I helped launch this campaign because the Zoo is for everybody and it makes Cincinnati a great place for families. We hope that thousands of people will respond to our challenge and help match our gift. Even if it’s $150 a year for 5 years, everybody can help the Zoo reach its goal of giving their animals More Home to Roam!”
Funds raised will be used to provide enhanced and improved areas for the animals in its care, as well as an excellent experience for its visitors.
While the scale of this campaign is impressive, the concept itself isn’t foreign to the Zoo. Back in 1993, an old gravel parking lot was refashioned into the Zoo’s amazing primate habitat, Jungle Trails, which went on to win the Best Exhibit Award of North American Zoos that year. Over the last 10 years, eight acres of land previously used for parking was used to create a new home for African creatures such as giraffes, lions, cheetahs and hippos. When the campaign is fully funded, all parking will be moved outside of the Zoo, opening up five times more space for the Zoo’s herd of Asian elephants.
The campaign will fund: a 15,000-square-foot kangaroo walkabout called Roo Valley, due to open in spring 2020; a new and improved home for Australian little blue penguins with an underwater viewing area, also due to open in spring 2020; an adventure ropes course; improvements to the sea lion habitat; expanded space for black rhinos and polar bears; a five-acre elephant habitat called Elephant Trek and a new parking garage and additional entrance for better Zoo access. As the number one attraction in Hamilton County, the
expanded 1,800-car parking option and improved pedestrian bridge are crucial for visitor access and engagement.
The $150 million for this campaign comes solely from private donations. “It’s an ambitious goal, but we’ll get there. Fortunately, we’re a Zoo town. People love the Zoo. We’ve already raised $70 million towards the $150 million, so that’s really good. Cincinnati is a very philanthropic town,” says Thane Maynard, Zoo Director. “More Home to Roam isn’t just about brick-and-mortar space. It’s about building a world where both wildlife and people can thrive.”
Maynard emphasizes the importance of these new and improved spaces both for the animals and for continued visitor education on wildlife conservation efforts. “The Zoo’s message isn’t to try to pretend that everything is ok, but to inspire people and talk about what it really takes to save endangered species.”
To learn more about the Zoo’s More Home to Roam capital campaign or how you can help it continue to inspire and educate, visit cincinnatizoo.org/more-home-to-roam/.
The Cincinnati Zoo is located at 3400 Vine St., Cincinnati, OH 45220. For more information, visit www.cincinnatizoo.org.