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About the Zoo

Conservation at the Zoo

About the Zoo> Conservation at the Zoo

Conservation at the Zoo

The mission of the Kansas City Zoo is to conserve and provide experiences with wildlife in order to entertain and educate our audiences and to instill a lifelong respect for nature. We will accomplish this by:

  • Offering outstanding, year-round, affordable guest experiences that build attendance and memberships and engage and compel our guests toward a greater understanding of our natural world
  • Transforming our zoological park into three zoo experiences, each with unique themes, animal exhibits and events along with supporting and convenient amenities and concessions
  • Demonstrating the diversity of wildlife while enhancing their care and survival through research and conservation
  • Enhancing the education of our audiences and our region through programs and partnerships with school districts and colleges
  • Operating a financially sound zoological park
  • Offering our employees a fun, rewarding work environment
  • Achieving full community support through success in all aspects of our mission and gain recognition as one of the nation's best zoos

Green Exhibits

There are three exhibits at the Zoo that showcase our hard work and diligent pursuit of conservation. We are working to decrease our carbon footprint by building exhibits that are environmentally friendly and educate the public about conservation.

Green Revolution

The Kansas City Zoo debuted the Green Revolution, an eco-friendly exhibit that addresses critical environmental issues concerning the future of our planet on Earth Day. This exhibit was created by the museum of Science and Industry in Chicago and is distributed across the country by the Smithsonian, with exhibit plans and templates that cities use to give it a local focus. Divided into sections ranging from composting and gardening to reducing your carbon footprint, the exhibit aims to build awareness of environmental issues and present solutions that individuals can implement to protect the natural world. The Kansas City version of the Green Revolution was created from reused, recycled materials found locally. Creative educational displays demonstrate how long it takes items to decay, how individuals can reduce their carbon footprint, how solar energy works and what products can be made from recycled products.

There are two really COOL things about this exhibit. Unlike most traveling museum exhibits, the Green Revolution has virtually no carbon footprint because all plans are sent digitally and all materials are re purposed. A part of the exhibit features green businesses and local "econ-heroes." This has brought much awareness to green jobs and partners who benefit the environment locally. Plans are underway to add additional components to this exhibit.

Polar Bear Passage

The Polar Bear Passage is a Green Building, which means Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards were followed during its design and construction. Under these standards builders were guided to use recycled materials, materials manufactured locally, or materials that carried a third party green certification. Plants have even been placed on the perimeter of the exhibit to enhance insulation, which keeps the environment cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

You can see Nikita and Berlin dive into the pool, amuse themselves with enrichment items or laze around on the rocky terrain. The pool is maintained at 65 degrees to make them feel more at home. They also have access to a behind-the-scenes climate-controlled building, where they are trained where they sometimes go to take a break from the public. The Polar Bear Passage is a show-stopping attraction that educates people about the preservation of polar bears in the wild. Polar bears are starving in the Arctic. They rely on sea ice to hunt and they travel long distances to get food by swimming from sheet to sheet. Due to global warming, the ice is melting at rapid rates. This is one of the reasons the Kansas City Zoo decided to bring the conservation message of polar bears to the masses.

Helzberg Penguin Plaza

Helzberg Penguin Plaza features a 100,000-gallon cool pool for cold-water penguins and a 25,000-gallon warm wet area laced with sand for warm water penguins. The Kansas City Zoo will acquire four types of penguins, which will include Humboldt, King, Gentoo and Rockhopper species. Each exhibit provides child-friendly and magnificent views, showcasing these extraordinary black and white birds in a recreated natural environment, including snow for our cold-water feathered friends. Upon approach, guests will travel over a map of the Southern Oceans, depicting where each of the world's 17 species of penguins is located. The Southern Oceans Gallery entry area provides views of five exhibits. These exhibits connect all oceans through a colorful coral reef aquarium, floating moon jellies and a mesmerizing 1500-gallon schooling fish aquarium.

The design for this 15 million dollar world-class exhibit includes efficiency and LEED certification.


With the help of Deffenbaugh Industries, we placed a recycling container next to every trash can on zoo grounds. This increased the amount of materials recycled by 18%.

On Zoo ground each year we recycle:

  • 1.25 tons of glass
  • 5,616 cubic feet of plastic, paper and cardboard
  • 23,868 cubic feet of herbivore poo into compost
  • 1.2 tons of compost distributed to gardens in the zoo and through the metro

Items we recycle

  • Aluminum Cans
  • Light Bulbs
  • Computers
  • Cell Phones
  • Batteries
  • Bi-metals such as iron, steel and wire
  • Cooking oil
  • Corrugated cardboard
  • Glass
  • Manure
  • Motor oil, paint and solvents
  • Paperboard, office paper, magazines
  • Printer and toner cartridges
  • Tin cans

The Scoop on Poop

Feces can be fascinating. Animals use poop to build their homes, hide from enemies, attract mates and even nourish themselves. Humans use it to make fertilizer, fuel power plants and diagnose medical conditions. At the Zoo we call it our all natural compost – Zoo Manoo -- an all-purpose soil conditioner. It is only one example of our conservation in action. Our composting program diverts 75% of animal waste into about 1200 tons of manure annually.

Besides improving the physical structure of the soil, using compost has other benefits. It modifies temperature extremes in the soil, keeping it cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. In addition, it utilizes water more efficiently because less moisture is lost due to evaporation and runoff thereby permitting better absorption.

Mussel Project

An important conservation project lies underwater in the Africa exhibit. In 2007 a mussel propagation project was begun near the Boathouse in the African Market. The original goal of the project was to put mussels in the young juvenile stage of development into a floating upweller system commonly called a “flupsy” to see if they would survive and grow.  Two of the four original species had previously only been found in rivers. Individual specimens were identified and each was photographed every other week. The photos were analyzed at the Missouri State University lab along with weekly water samples for quality analysis.

Among all the research sites in the state that year utilizing the same protocols, the Zoo’s site showed the best growth rate, including mussels grown in the lab. This original group of mussels was maintained on grounds from May to November and then all were returned to their original collection site. There have been 14 different species at one time or another. We currently have two endangered species along with others that may soon join the list. Most exciting, we are helping to return some of these species back to the wild.

Animal Enrichment

Many items can be reused or recycled as animal enrichment. Items that may seem like trash for us, shredded paper, cardboard boxes and tubes, fire hoses, plastic buckets or cups, 55-gallon plastic barrels, sheets, towels, blankets and phone books, are treasures to our animals. They are given these items as part of enrichment activities and they love the special treat.

Painting is also a form of enrichment for our animals. Each animal has its own unique painting style. Some hold the brushes in their mouths or trunks, while others paint with their fingers and toes. These animal masterpieces are available for purchase in our gift shop. Proceeds from the sale goes into the Zoo's Conservation Fund.

Compostable Concession Items

In 2012 our on-site restaurants and snack bars were serving 15% compostable and recyclable products. In 2013 we are determined to do better. By making product changes, we will change that percentage to 50% by May 2013 and by early 2014, our goal is to be serving with 80% or more compostable and recyclable items.

As part of our partnership with Pepsi, we are serving Aquafina in a new PET designed bottle. It reduces the amount of plastic associated with water bottles by 50%. It is also the lightest PET container on the market. In addition, the bottle, cap, label and bulk packaging are all 100% recyclable.

Humboldt Penguin Conservation Research in Peru 

The Kansas City Zoo is proud to be a major player in the conservation of Humboldt penguins, along with team members from the Brookfield Zoo and the St. Louis Zoo. The Humboldt Penguin Consortium supports a Peruvian reserve located in Punta San Juan, Peru. Each member contributes money that pays for the salaries of the local biologists who take care of the reserve and study the animals that inhabit the area. Our Director of Living Collections has already been to visit the research station and the Zoo will send a staff member each year to participate in populations counts and health assessments of the penguins in Peru. The Humboldt penguin population had been declining due to guano harvesting, which the birds use for nesting. It was harvested to the point where the habitats of the birds was infringed upon. As much as 40% of the world's Humboldt penguin species lives in Punta San Juan so we wanted to jump in and help a species of penguin that has become near and dear to us. Joining this consortium is a great way for the Kansas City Zoo to contribute to a worth-while conservation program that includes one of the species found in our Helzberg Penguin Plaza. 

Sustainable Seafood

Learn more here about Kansas City Zoo's efforts in sustainable seafood education.


Animal Enrichment

Many items can be reused or recycled as animal enrichment. Items that may seem like trash for us are treasures to our animals. Learn more

96 Elephants

35,000 elephants were killed in Africa in 2012 — 96 elephants per day. This unprecedented poaching crisis demands a global movement. The Wildlife Conservation Society is determined to stop the killing, stop the trafficking, and stop the demand. You Can help! Take action at