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Lovin' The Wildlife

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Lovin’ the Wild Life

Support for the next decade of adventure at Kansas City Zoo...

Kansas City Zoo has a long history, dating back to 1908.  We’ve entertained families and children for generations, with generations of Kansas City families supporting our efforts. Over the past decade, thanks to marquee animals such as Nikita, the polar bear, enhancements such as the sky safari over Africa, and the excitement of opening the Helzberg Penguin Plaza, we’ve accelerated the Zoo’s magnetism to a whole new level.

Since 2002, when Friends of the Zoo (FOTZ) assumed management of day-to-day operations, the Zoo has lowered operating costs through better efficiencies while focusing with more precision on our mission, to be both entertaining and educational.  Every time we slide open the entry gates, everyone—from keepers to concession stand servers—commits to making Kansas City Zoo the “edu-tainment” capital of the Midwest.       

Thanks to both FOTZ oversight and community confirmation of the Zoological District, the Zoo has grown into one of the country’s leading zoological parks, drawing record-setting crowds. In 2012 we entertained over 824,000 guests.  In 2014, thanks to our penguins, we expect over a 915,000.

With funding uncertainties stabilized and community support solidly in place, the Zoo is now in a position to proactively mobilize “next best steps”—Preserve, Promote, Provide and Protect— an integrated, capital campaign to be fully implemented over the next ten years. 


The Zoo’s greatest assets are the animals we care for, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Annual funding and cash reserves will help us protect them—here in Kansas City and around the world. Though zoos provide safe havens, zoos should not be the only environments in which animals survive and thrive. 

Kansas City Zoo takes a holistic—but focused approach—to endangered species.  Rather than try to do too little in too many places, we have committed our resources to the following initiatives.

  • Humboldt Penguin Wild Care Center, Punta San Juan, Peru. By forming a bond between zoos like ours, the center is managing the species survival plan, with the goal of securing the future of the Humboldt penguin in Punta San Juan, home to half the Peruvian penguins.


  • Brown Hyenas Research Project, Namibia, Africa. This project aims to investigate the effects of diamond mining activities on the brown hyena population in the southern coastal Namibia Desert. The results will substantially increase the knowledge of the behavioral and population ecology of brown hyenas in an ecologically unique ecosystem.


  • Wyoming Toads Species Survival Plan, Albany County, Wyoming.  The Species Survival Plan (SSP) for the Wyoming toad is a coordinated effort to save an endangered species through captive breeding, public education, habitat preservation, supportive research and, in some cases, the release of captive-bred animals into the wild


  • Fresh Water Mussel Program, Kansas City Zoo. Fresh water mussels create habitats for other species while filtering copious amounts of water. This filtering creates a cleaner downstream environment, meaning that freshwater mussels benefit the entire ecosystem. These animals are also the most imperiled of all animals and plants in the world.


  • Polar Bears International, through tree planting campaign. Polar bears depend on sea ice to hunt, breed, and in some cases, to den. Unfortunately, the buildup of carbon in the atmosphere has radically diminished the ice. Conservation actions that reduce the production of greenhouse gases are the most impactful efforts to save polar bears. Planting trees is one of the few tools that we have to impact carbon increase.



With the same sense of forward thinking tenacity that guided the Kansas City Zoo through the past 100 years, the Zoo is now taking the next, natural step in strengthening its position as one of the country’s leading zoological parks—securing an operating endowment.

Though the future is full of exciting plans, immediate needs continue.  The lights—in addition to water, heating, air conditioning, generators, and all manner of utilities—must stay on 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Maintaining a clean, efficient, well-running infrastructure is imperative. An endowment would provide the security to do so, allowing the Zoo to navigate the ups and downs of the economy while keeping a proactive eye on future opportunities.

 Funding of an endowment would ensure:

  •       Long-term maintenance of individual buildings and venues.
  •       Necessary updates to animal habits.
  •       Delivery of costly medical care.
  •       Ongoing outlay of routine—yet costly and fluctuating—expenses such as utilities.

 With a secure endowment all interest would provide for future aspirations, while the principle would remain untouched.  With the confidence of a protected today, we can dream tomorrow into reality.



As an entertainment venue visitors want to know what’s new at the Zoo? Status quo equates to lower attendance; crowds are driven by new or renovated facilities and exhibits. As an example, in 2003, attendance was a meager, 414,428.  Compare that to 2012, when—after the polar bear exhibit opened—attendance spiked to 824,000.

The comparison between then and now demonstrates the value of continuous improvement supported by capital investment. It takes financial courage to remain cutting-edge, world-class, and better-than-ever-before.

Now that penguins have settled in we’re setting our sights on “what’s next.”  On the drawing board—and well on the way to reality:

  •    Tuxedo Grill (a 300 seat dining facility directly across from the Helzberg Penguin Plaza)
  •    Orangutan Canopy
  •    Elephant Watering Hole
  •    Predator Canyon
  •    Guest amenities such as snack stands, gifts shops and additional (and updated!) restrooms

 Capital support represents the largest financial goal of Lovin’ the Wildlife. We’ve made progress (support for Tuxedo Grill is in place) yet funding for proposed exhibits and infrastructure for a year-round Zoo needs to be secured.  A master plan— established to take the Zoo to the next level as a world-class zoological park—is solidly in place. Yet it will take time; it will take community support; and, most important, it will take capital investments.



To remain relevant, the Zoo must integrate our commitment to education with a sense of wonder and adventure.  The “what-if” questions and “oh-my!” experiences play a significant role in helping us understand, enjoy and appreciate our natural world.

Daily, the Zoo supports and promotes: 

  •     Trained, energized staff continually creating and updating hands-on curriculum.
  •     School group field trips which include personal attention from a Zoo, school-facilitator.  Schools can also request the ever-popular—and educational­­—Zoomobile.
  •     Adult programs from world class lecturers which continue to expand in popularity and variety.
  •     Family Science Nights, encouraging families to tease out topics such as Wicked Weather and Awesome Astronomy.
  •     “Zooper” camp programs (including scholarships for kids unable to pay) including Act Like an Animal, Junior Zoologist, Polar Quest and Zookeeper for a day (to name a few!)
  •      And special “Zootastic” day-long learning events which introduce guests to new animals (and their babies!) and expanded exhibits.

In addition, free family days are offered four times each year to residents of Jackson and Clay Counties in Kansas City, Missouri. 

Everything the Zoo offers takes time and resources. With support we can continue to deliver as we strive to expand our knowledge of the animal world with the visitors we entertain daily.


Join us. Together we’ll be Lovin’ the Wildlife!


1909 Lion's Pride Society