On Oct. 16, the Fort Worth Zoo unveiled “A Wilder Vision.” It is the culmination of years of planning and a dream that began in 1985 — creating one of the world’s greatest zoos.
Already recognized as one of the top five zoos in the nation, our zoo regularly receives accolades from around the world.
The city and people of Fort Worth, with their customary spirit of cooperation and shared achievement, have been our perfect partners on this journey.
Together we transformed a declining municipal zoo into a nationally recognized education, conservation and entertainment powerhouse. Our public-private partnership has become the gold standard for zoos around the country.
In the 30-plus years I’ve been privileged to work with the Fort Worth Zoo, we’ve seen dramatic shifts in how zoos are run.
On the cutting edge of zoo operations, we are an industry frontrunner and trendsetter committed to the highest level of care and enrichment for our beloved animals.
We are also an international leader in wildlife conservation, and the work we do here at the zoo makes that leadership possible.
Even as we celebrate our accomplishments, we realize our work is not done.
Ours is the oldest zoo site in Texas, and some exhibits and parts of the zoo need to be redesigned or better utilized.
The remarkable success of our elephant and rhino programs necessitates new facilities.
In our ever-urbanizing world, there is a worrisome disconnect between people and nature. We must explore solutions that mutually benefit man and animal and further man’s proactive role in the survival of these magnificent creatures.
“A Wilder Vision” encompasses not only a mission for conserving the animal kingdom, but also for educating and motivating future leaders.
Our role has never been more crucial, our leadership more critical.
In what researchers call a “silent extinction,” giraffe populations have dropped more than 40 percent.
Within 30 years these species may be gone in the wild.
Some read these bleak statistics and are discouraged. For us at the Fort Worth Zoo, they are a clarion call.
The connection between zoos and the wild is often unclear, but the link is vital.
National Geographic wrote, “As the wild shrinks, zoos are increasingly being looked at as modern-day arks: the last refuge against a rising tide of extinction.”
We create assurance colonies, groups of animals that will ensure those species continue to live and thrive on our planet. They are, in many cases, portals to the future.
The Fort Worth Zoo and its partners manage the entire southern black rhino population in North America and Australia. We must have room to propagate this highly endangered species.
With the historic births of our third-generation Asian elephant calves, and as one of the few U.S. zoos with a breeding program, we must expand and improve our elephant complex.
For these mega fauna and many others, “A Wilder Vision” is not a choice — it is a necessity.
Over the years, our zoo has fascinated, entertained and educated more than 30 million visitors from every walk of life, and it deserves the utmost generosity from each and every one of us.
“In the end we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand; and we will understand only what we are taught,” said forestry engineer Baba Dioum.
The incredible community treasure that is our Fort Worth Zoo can teach all of us to love, understand and conserve wild things and wild places forever.
Ramona Bass is the co-chair of the Fort Worth Zoological Association Board of Directors and chair of “A Wilder Vision.”
“A Wilder Vision” is the Fort Worth Zoo’s $100-million capital campaign to provide new exhibit space, renovated habitats, special events space, dining areas and new ways to observe, interact with and learn about several species.
Zoo officials say a “quiet phase” of the campaign has gathered $90 million in pledges from local individuals, foundations and corporations. Now the zoo has stared its community campaign to raise the remaining $10 million needed.
Zoo supporters themselves are going wild with ideas to attract contributors, everything from donation stations for zoo visitors to fundraising events at local restaurants to loaning out “ade for animals” lemonade stands for people to raise money at garage sales and other events.
Check out campaign plans on the zoo’s website, fortworthzoo.org.