The Fort Worth Zoo is About to Get Wilder!
October 16, 2016
Zoo announces new capital campaign, more master plan details
FORT WORTH, Texas – The Fort Worth Zoo Board of Directors and Executive Director today announced A Wilder Vision, a $100-million capital campaign that includes renovated habitats, new exhibit space, special events space, dining areas and most importantly, new ways for guests to observe, interact with and learn about animals. Zoo officials are proud to announce that the quiet phase of the campaign has concluded with $90 million pledged from local individuals, foundations and corporations. The Zoo now plans to enlist the public’s help in generating the remaining $10 million as part of its community campaign.
Creating a Better Future
After witnessing the poaching problem and plight of several species in the wild, while also experiencing breeding and conservation successes here at home, Zoo officials began identifying the Zoo’s needs over the next 20 years and beyond. Planning for A Wilder Vision began in 2011 and developments have already begun. Divided into stages – African Savanna, Elephant Springs, Hunters of African & Asian Predators and Forests & Jungles – the plan encompasses not only a mission for conserving the animal kingdom, but also for educating and motivating future leaders.
The African Savanna is the first stage of A Wilder Vision and will open to the public in the spring of 2018. The Savanna will imitate the natural ecosystem of east Africa, where diverse species roam freely together. “We are excited to bring multiple species together one of the largest giraffe herds in the nation,” said Zoo Executive Director Michael Fouraker. “Guests will be able to come face to face with these animals and engage in ways that they’ve never been able to before.” Guests will be able to stroll through African Savanna and see giraffes, zebras, ostriches and multiple antelope species in one exhibit as well as aviaries and exhibits for several bird species.
The experience will also allow guests to stand on an elevated observation deck, eye-to-eye with a giraffe as it eats lettuce right out of their hands. They will also be able to watch hippos from above or below, as the new exhibit will feature underwater viewing of these large creatures. Multiple yards will surround the expansive exhibit and house the Zoo’s southern black rhinos. Complete with educational programming and correlating activities such as keeper chats, African Savanna will also share messages of conservation and environmental stewardship with guests, students and teachers throughout the Metroplex.
The next part of A Wilder Vision to open will be Elephant Springs, which will nearly triple the size of the current elephant yard. The exhibit will serve as home to the growing Asian elephant herd, which includes a three-generation family. The addition of multiple, expanded yards and a 500,000-gallon pool will help to enhance the Zoo’s successful breeding program. The greater one-horned rhino will have a home next door to elephants. The exhibit will open in the spring of 2020.
Cascading waterfalls and multiple pools will flow through Hunters of African and Asian Predators, exhibits that will house several big cat species and other skilled hunters of the animal kingdom. A redesigned habitat will allow the African lions an expanded yard while guests will be separated by a pane of glass. Cheetahs will be relocated to a renovated space near the lions. Striped hyenas and Malayan tigers will also call this lush exhibit home. Joining these animals will be a new species for the Fort Worth Zoo, the elusive clouded leopard. Another predator species that will soon call the Fort Worth Zoo home is the African leopard, and a pack of African wild dogs will also rejoin the collection. This area is projected to open in the spring of 2022.
The final development stage for A Wilder Vision – Forests & Jungles – will take place in the heart of the Zoo just before guests reach Texas Wild!. An animal found only in the deepest parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo rainforests will soon live at the Fort Worth Zoo – the okapi. The Zoo’s African bongo collection will also take up residency in this new exhibit. The Sumatran orangutan, a favorite among Zoo guests, is also planned to reside in the Forests & Jungles exhibit. Although the jaguar once roamed the southern United States, including Texas, these felines will eventually move out of Texas Wild! and into an innovative creation of an Amazon forest. Forests & Jungles is projected to open in the spring of 2025.
A Storied History
The Fort Worth Zoo was founded in 1909 with one lion, two bear cubs, an alligator, a coyote, a peacock and a few rabbits. From these humble beginnings, the Zoo has grown into a nationally ranked facility, housing more than 7,000 native and exotic animals. From 1909 to October 1991, the Fort Worth Zoo was owned and operated by the City of Fort Worth. During the city's tenure, a long-standing tradition began of collecting money from the community to purchase animals for the Zoo. In 1939, the Zoological Society (now the Fort Worth Zoological Association) formed as a nonprofit organization to help raise additional funds to purchase even more animals.
In October 1991 – with the Zoo facing decreasing city support, demands to replace outdated animal housing and declines in attendance – the Association assumed management of the Zoo's day-to-day operations under a contract with the City of Fort Worth. Since 1991, the Association has raised more than $186 million from private entities, foundations and corporations for Zoo improvements and new exhibits. In 1992, the Zoo hosted a grand reopening, unveiling two new exhibits – World of Primates and Asian Falls – and numerous improvements throughout the Zoo. Within the first year, Zoo attendance soared to approximately 1 million visitors in a fiscal year, almost double that of the previous year, and has maintained ever since.
Since 1992, the Zoo has opened major exhibits and support facilities, including Texas Wild! and the Museum of Living Art (MOLA), virtually creating a new zoo. In addition to these new exhibits, substantial improvements have been made to Zoo facilities, including restrooms, shade structures, walkways, food outlets, picnic areas, animal areas and exhibit space.
The Fort Worth Zoo looks forward to the completion of A Wilder Vision and sharing its commitment to conservation, education and entertainment with families from across the Metroplex, the state and the rest of the nation.
The nationally acclaimed Fort Worth Zoo has been ranked the Best Zoo in Texas by Yahoo Travel, the No. 5 zoo in the nation by USA Travel Guide, the No. 1 attraction in the DFW Metroplex by Zagat survey and a top 10 zoo or aquarium by FamilyFun magazine and TripAdvisor’s Travelers’ Choice Awards. The Zoo is home to more than 500 animal species and a world-famous reptile collection, housed in the Museum of Living Art (MOLA). The institution’s focus on education and conservation is second to none, enhancing the lives of more than 1 million visitors a year.