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Houston Zoo Announces $150 Million Centennial Fundraising Campaign

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Tony Maples Photography


Coming on the cusp of its 100th anniversary, the Houston Zoo announced a $150 million-centennial fundraising campaign, releasing renderings for a variety of new multi-species habitats together with a new Houston Zoo logo. Campaign chairs Cullen Geiselman and Joe Cleary, together with Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and Houston Zoo CEO Lee Ehmke, laid out a four-year plan for the coming work at the zoo’s announcement on Thursday, April 5, including the redevelopment of half the zoo’s 50 acres.

Turning 100 years-old in 2022, the Houston Zoo has been continuously striving to make positive changes since its privatization in 2002. Close to $150 million in upgrades have been completed thanks to the community. Housing approximately 8,000 animals, the facility is planning for more “…beautiful and immersive habitats, compelling guest experiences and an unyielding commitment to saving wildlife.”

Houston Zoo Announces $150 Million Centennial Fundraising Campaign

Photo: Facebook/Houston Zoo

A $50 million donation from the John P. McGovern Foundation is helping to make such improvements possible. Over the more than $102 million presently secured toward the project, this is the largest gift to the zoo. Chevron has also pledged a grant in the amount of $1.8 million, among the other gifts from corporations and individuals alike.

Recent large additions to the Houston Zoo have included the McNair Asian Elephant Habitat and the McNair Foundation Great Ape Gallery, which both rank high in popularity amongst Houstonians. And, the new Texas Wetlands exhibit is scheduled for opening in the spring of 2019. One of three such new habitats, its sister exhibits (the Pantanal and the Galapagos Island) will open in 2021 and 2022, respectively, featuring animals of these natural habitats.

Houston Zoo Announces $150 Million Centennial Fundraising Campaign

Photo: Facebook/Orangutan SSP

Of the project’s major components, a new main entry to the zoo is planned for 2022, as well as a bigger bird garden, and an avian conservation center. The bear and orangutan habitats are also scheduled to receive updates within the coming year. At the announcement, Mayor Turner mentioned that he’s been going to the zoo since he was a young boy, saying, “For kids like me, whose families couldn’t afford to go outside of the city, this was our vacation spot. As a kid, a native Houstonian, this was the place. Just for people who are here, coming to our city, it’s an attraction. It’s a very calming and tranquil place.” This role was never more important than in the days following Hurricane Harvey’s landfall in Texas, when the zoo welcomed some 51,000 guests to take their minds off their current situation and experience that tranquility. Being a community mainstay, the Houston Zoo and its animals did their utmost to help bring a sense of normalcy back to the city, showing they too were #TexasStrong. With the announcement of these future changes, the zoo will continue to service the animals and the community in a great capacity.