Op Ed peice RE Zoo Oklahoman June 2007

January 9, 2009

It has been another banner year at the Oklahoma City Zoo. I am proud to point out that 15,149 patrons enjoyed the zoo on March 20 which established a new single day attendance record. That mark was short lived as on May 17th, as 17,100 guests visited to the zoo. Chairman of the Oklahoma City Zoological Trust, Dick Beshear, believes that with good weather the zoos overall attendance should exceed 850,000 for the fiscal year June 07 to July 08. This would break the all-time attendance record of 800,601 established last year.

Why our zoo continues excel is no secret: It is the number one family attraction in Oklahoma City! The zoo is a casual, fun-filled adventure which offers something for everyone. Innovative new exhibits continually offer fresh learning opportunities. The landscaping and flora throughout the zoo are picturesque while employees and volunteer docents are always helpful and friendly. Admission and concession prices are family friendly and unlike amusement parks, there is no charge for parking.

I predict that the zoo’s annual attendance will continue to enjoy unabated growth and will soon exceed one million guests. Membership in the Oklahoma Zoological Society, a non profit organization which supports the zoo’s mission of conservation, education and recreation, is also growing. ZooFriends plays a critical role in fund raising, communicating information about education classes for children and just as important, educating volunteers to serve the zoo as future zoo trustees. This last element, preparing future zoo trust members, is significant.

By serving for several years on the board of ZooFriends, one has the unique opportunity to gain valuable insight about the often subtle nuances germane to animal conservation and management. My eighteen year of involvement with ZooFriends served as a catalyst for visiting twenty-three American zoos as well as zoos in Cairo, Rome, Paris and London. The opportunity to experience first hand how other zoological parks manage various animal collections, plan new exhibits, or deal with conservation issues made me a more knowledgeable trustee.

Recently, I joined Mr. Beshear, acting zoo Director Brian Aucone, trustees Dr. Mark Sullivan and Kent Williams, on a weekend visit to the Memphis Zoo. The design team hired by the Memphis Zoo will also be working in behalf of our upcoming Asia exhibit. At one point, we spent almost an hour examining an innovative locking system that the Memphis zoo has developed to better secure their bears. This same technological advancement might be utilized to better secure the handling of large animals at our zoo.

This is an exhilarating time for the Oklahoma City Zoo. With the eighth-most diverse animal collection in America, a dynamic, innovative and robust master plan, the expertise and love of one hundred and thirty dedicated employees, and the financial support of ZooFriends and other philanthropic individuals and organizations, success was perhaps inevitable. If your family hasn’t visited the zoo lately, come see what all the excitement is about.

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