The Fort Worth Zoo on Monday revealed details about the public phase of a $100 million capital campaign called A Wilder Vision that aims for improvements and investments to prepare the zoo for the next 20 years.
Among the improvements are renovated habitats, new exhibit space, special events space, dining areas and new ways for guests to observe, interact with and learn about animals. A Wilder Vision will also allow the zoo to guarantee for future generations the survival of certain endangered species, according to zoo officials.
The zoo’s board of directors and zoo officials say 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.
“I think the most amazing part of this is that due to the generosity of a lot of families, foundations and individuals that continue to be so supportive of the zoo – and Fort Worth in general – is that out of that $100 million we have raised $90 million,” said Ardon Moore, president of the Fort Worth Zoological Association, speaking at the press conference announcing the public phase of the campaign.
Zoo officials began planning for the A Wilder Vision by identifying the zoo’s needs over the next 20 years and beyond.
Informing those plans were the plight of many animals in the wild due to poaching problems and the fact that several species have come under stress in their current environment. Along with that, the zoo has seen successes in breeding and conservation programs.
“A Wilder Vision will ensure the survival of these amazing animals,” said Ramona Bass, longtime zoo board member and benefactor.
That planning 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 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 breeding program. The greater one-horned rhino will have a home next door to elephants. The exhibit will open in the spring of 2020.
The next exhibit to open, in the spring of 2022 is Hunters of African and Asian Predators. The exhibit 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.
The final development 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.