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Monday, March 8, 2021

In the Wild: Fort Worth Zoo plans $100 million overhaul

Fort Worth Zoo


It’s wild. But it’s going to get wilder.

The city’s most popular tourist attraction is planning a $100 million facelift.

On Oct. 17, the Fort Worth Zoo unveiled 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 planned improvements are renovated habitats, new exhibit space, special events space, dining areas and new ways for visitors to observe, interact with and learn about animals. A Wilder Vision will also allow the zoo to help guarantee for future generations the survival of certain endangered species through new habitats and more aggressive breeding programs, 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 already pledged from local individuals, foundations and corporations. The last $10 million of the project is the community campaign that began in mid-October.

“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 news conference announcing the public phase of the campaign.

Zoo officials began planning for 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 and environmental stresses on their habitats. The zoo has seen successes in breeding and conservation programs and plans to participate in those programs.

“A Wilder Vision will ensure the survival of these amazing animals,” said Ramona Bass, longtime zoo board member and benefactor.

The planning began in 2011 and developments have already begun. The plan is divided into stages – African Savanna, Elephant Springs, Hunters of Africa and Asian Predators and Forests and Jungles. It encompasses a mission of not only conserving wildlife but also educating and motivating future leaders, who it hopes will become involved in the zoo and conservation efforts.

A Wilder Vision

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 along with one of the largest giraffe herds in the nation,” said the zoo’s 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.” Visitors can stroll through the 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 house the zoo’s 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 third exhibit to open, projected for spring 2022, is Hunters of Africa and Asian Predators. The exhibit will house several big cat species and other predators. A redesigned habitat will allow the African lions an expanded yard while visitors 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 be housed in this lush exhibit. Joining these animals will be a new species for the Fort Worth Zoo, the elusive clouded leopard. Another predator species coming to the Fort Worth Zoo is the African leopard, and a pack of African wild dogs will also rejoin the collection.

The final phase – Forests and Jungles – will be developed in the heart of the zoo just before visitors reach Texas Wild!. It will house an animal found only in the remotest parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo rainforests – the okapi. The zoo’s African bongos will also move to this new exhibit along with the Sumatran orangutan, a favorite among zoo visitors. Although jaguars 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 and Jungles is projected to open in the spring of 2025.

The Fort Worth Zoological Association assumed private management of the zoo in 1991. Under management of the Fort Worth Zoological Association, the zoo has opened 16 major exhibits and raised more than $186 million for capital improvements. The 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 and the No. 1 attraction in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex by Zagat survey. At the close of its fiscal year on Sept. 30, the Fort Worth Zoo said attendance for the year topped 1 million.

African Savanna project firms

The African Savanna is the first phase of A Wilder Vision plan, opening to the public in spring 2018. An underwater viewing tank for hippos, an elevated deck for giraffe feeding, restaurants and shaded viewing area and a private event space are part of the exhibit.

Here is a list of the firms involved in the project.

• The Projects Group,

Project manager


• CLR Designs

Lead design architect


• Dunaway Associates

Landscape architect, civil engineer, structural engineer


• Fowlkes Norman & Associates

Landscape architects


• Halbach Dietz Architects

Building architect


• Summit Consultants

MEP/FS engineer


• TIP Inc.

LSS engineer

• Whiting-Turner Contracting Co.

Construction manager-at-risk


A Wilder Vision

Leadership Gifts ($1 million or more)

Mr. and Mrs. Lee M. Bass

Paul E. Andrews Jr. Foundation

The Walton Family Foundation

Edward P. Bass

Sid R. Bass

The Burnett Foundation

Amon G. Carter Foundation

Sid W. Richardson Foundation

Joe and Jessie Crump Fund and Martha Sue Parr Trust,

JPMorgan Chase Trustees

The Happy Davis Foundation Inc.

Kimbell Art Foundation

Kleinheinz Family Foundation

T. J. Brown and C.A. Lupton Foundation

Ardon and Iris Moore Foundation

The Morris Foundation

Mr. and Mrs. Robert L. Patton, Jr.

The Rosenthal Family

The Ryan Foundation

Schollmaier Foundation/ Rae and Ed Schollmaier

William E. Scott Foundation

Listing as Sept. 27

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Robert Francis
Robert is a Fort Worth native and longtime editor of the Fort Worth Business Press. He is a former president of the local Society of Professional Journalists and was a freelancer for a variety of newspapers, weeklies and magazines, including American Way, BrandWeek and InformatonWeek. A graduate of TCU, Robert has held a variety of writing and editing positions at publications such as the Grand Prairie Daily News and InfoWorld. He is also a musician and playwright.

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