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Posted by Tara Henson on 02/05/2013

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                        February 2, 2013


CONTACTS:  Tara Henson                 (405) 425-0219, (405) 919-9038 or [email protected]

                     Candice Rennels           (405) 425-0298, (405) 412-6172 or [email protected]



The Oklahoma City Zoo experienced another memorable year with tangible growth, both among its animal residents and in number of people served and impacted from events and educational programs.  Once again, the support of the Oklahoma City community and dedicated staff members has made the Zoo not only a national favorite but an endearing local attraction. The following 12 Highlights of 2012 showcase the Zoo’s strengths and vision.


  • Births Galore! While 2011 closed with the rare birth of an Okapi (Oh-COP-ee) calf named Nia, 2012 began with the proud birth of a lively giraffe, Sergeant Peppers, in mid-January. He stood approximately 5 feet 6 inches upon arrival. In March, the Zoo squealed in excitement over the births of four red river hog piglets named Herb, Dill, Ginger and Sage. Red river hogs originate from west and central Africa. Another red-coated baby was born on June 6the same night as the OKC Thunder Western Conference Basketball Championship. While thousands of fans celebrated the win, Zoo staffers witnessed the eleventh red panda birth in the Zoo’s history. The new female cub was named KayDee in honor of Thunder player, Kevin Durant, commonly known by fans as K.D.  The Zoo also witnessed the hatching of six healthy Galapagos tortoises now on exhibit in the Zoo’s Island Life building. Galapagos tortoises are listed as a vulnerable and at-risk-of-extinction species.


  • Successful Adoption. Another special addition to the Zoo family was the adoption of an infant chimp named Ruben. Ruben’s mother died just 24 hours after giving birth during a medical procedure. Ruben received around-the-clock care from Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo caregivers for seven months, but Ruben needed a surrogate mother that the Oklahoma City Zoo could provide.  Just weeks after arriving at the Zoo, Ruben was blending well and being accepted by his new surrogate mother, Kito, and the other chimp troop members.


  • Birthday Bash!  It was a pachyderm-sized party in celebration of baby elephant Malee’s first birthday, complete with elephant-friendly cupcakes. The celebration included free activities, party favor giveaways and delicious treats provided by local bakeries. Malee, an Asian elephant, was born on April 15, 2011, to first-time mom, Asha, and dad, Sneezy, of the Tulsa Zoo. Her name means “flower” or “jasmine” in Thai. She weighed in at 304 pounds at birth and now weighs approximately 1,700 pounds.


  • Third Best Zoo!  The Zoo was honored by being named the third best zoo in the nation by’s 10Bestie’s Readers’ Choice Travel Awards! 10Best's readers were asked to vote for their favorite nominee in each of 10 categories, ranging from Best Aquariums and Best Zoos to Best Ski Resorts and Best Museums. "Our Zoo team and patrons are to be thanked for their support of our Zoo, which continues to improve because of this dedication." said Dwight Scott, Zoo executive director.


  • More “Green” Fun! A new Safari Voyage boat joined the Zoo Lake fleet in 2012. The fleet now consists of two boats built especially for the Zoo on Chesapeake Bay in Maryland.  In keeping with the Zoo’s green initiatives, the boats are electric powered and completely pollution-free.  Built of fiberglass to resemble the African Queen of movie fame, each weighs 22,000 pounds and can accommodate approximately 50 passengers, including those with disabilities. Safari Voyage is a partnership between the Zoo and Water Taxi, LLC.


  • State-of-the-Art Care.  The Oklahoma Zoological Society announced its Commitment to Care capital campaign, a $4.5 million fundraising campaign and a $4.5 million match by the Oklahoma City Zoo sales tax appropriation, to build a new veterinary hospital. This project is critical to successfully protecting and caring for animals in the Zoo and will be named the Joan Kirkpatrick Animal Hospital.  The advances in medicine and technology along with the growth of the Zoo’s animal collection have necessitated the building of the new facility. The new state-of-the-art animal hospital will be accessible to visitors and provide an unprecedented look at exams, surgeries, medications and treatment procedures.


  • Record Attendance! The Oklahoma City Zoo celebrated its highest attendance ever with 989,622 valued guests! The Zoo enjoyed this success without opening a major new attraction and surpassed the previous record of 982,721 set in 2011. In addition, the Oklahoma Zoological Society reported the number of its memberships increasing to 23,640 households.


  • Nine Healthy Reasons.  To showcase the healthy benefits of visiting the Zoo, the Oklahoma Zoological Society’s young professional group, ZooTroop, unveiled nine newly mapped walking trails. The trails range in distance from .32 miles to 2.87 miles and provide a safe environment for walkers with staff, security and EMTs on grounds. People can walk the trails with each Zoo admission, or for less than the price of a gym membership, a ZooFriends’ membership provides unlimited access to the trails during Zoo operating hours.  ZooTroop is planning a run for April 14, 2013.


  • Wishes Granted!  In 2012, the Zoo’s Wild Wish Tree, decorated with ornaments bearing descriptions of needed enrichment items for Zoo animals, expanded to include a wish list of 250 items available for purchase online through with direct shipping to the Zoo. Each of these “wish” items--diverse in size, shape and cost—are used to generate the interest, curiosity, enjoyment and enrichment of Zoo animals. The Zoo received a record number of donated items and contributions.


  • More Than Art. The Zoo presented its annual Art Gone Wild: Paintings by OKC Zoo Animals exhibit at In Your Eye Gallery in the Paseo Art’s District. With help from Zoo caregivers, all paintings were created by the Zoo’s own feathered, furry and scaly artists using their paws, claws, noses or even lips.  Creating the art is safe and non-toxic for the animals and provides a stimulating environment that addresses an animal's social, psychological and physical needs. During the art exhibit, guests were able to view and purchase these one-of-a-kind works of art.  Animal Art paintings can still be purchased online at In 2012, 50 percent of the exhibit’s record proceeds supported the okapi conservation efforts in the Democratic Republic of Congo with remaining funds dedicated to other conservation projects. The Zoo is home to four of these endangered and unique-looking okapis. An enhanced educational exhibit showcasing the Zoo’s animal art is on display now through June at the Oklahoma History Center.


  • Added Value. Volunteer assistance and educational outreach continue to help the Zoo remain one of the top zoos in the nation. In 2012, the Zoo received 28,955 hours of assistance from dedicated volunteers!  These hours represent a value of more than $607,000 to the Zoo. The volunteers assisted with daily operations and projects while gaining job experience and life-long memories.  In addition, the Zoo conducted 593 educational programs, teaching 32,781 students various aspects of the Zoo’s animal and plant collections. The Zoo also developed a new collegiate internship program and graduated its first student.


  • Global Impact. The Zoo expanded its conservation efforts locally and globally by raising more than $15,000 from its “Round Up” point-of-sale program, hosting several conservation authorities and supporting valuable research projects. Dr. Ian Singleton, director of conservation at PanEco Foundation, addressed the impending plight of orangutans in Sumatra, Indonesia, being eliminated by palm oil companies harvesting palm trees dangerously and illegally.  Representatives from The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund presented the progress being made to protect and foster the gorilla population in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.  The Zoo’s partnership with the Lekurruki Conservancy Trust on 60,000 acres in Kenya provided for the protection and management of five critically endangered species of large carnivore, such as cheetahs and hyenas, and large mammals, such as the common zebra and the vulnerable population of elephants. Locally, the Zoo continued its partnership with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC) to collect scientific data on Oklahoma’s native flora and fauna species, including the Winter Bird Survey, Lesser Prairie-Chicken Survey and Bat Inventory on wildlife management areas. Likewise, the Zoo continued its partnership with the Tinker Air Force Base Department of Natural Resources tracking Oklahoma’s threatened Texas Horned Lizard population.


           Located in Oklahoma City’s Adventure District, recognized as one of the top three family friendly zoos in the nation and the state’s number one attraction, the Oklahoma City Zoo is open daily from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. with buildings closing at 4:45 p.m. Admission is $8 for adults, $5 for children ages 3 to 11, and $5 for seniors age 65 and over. Children two and under are admitted free. On Mondays in January and February, admission is free for guests of all ages. Are you a Zoo fan?  Find us at To learn more about these and other happenings, call (405) 424-3344 or visit


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The Zoo is a fully accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and the American Association of Museums (AAM) as both a living museum and a botanical garden. AZA accredited facilities are dedicated to providing excellent care for their plants and animals, a great experience for guests and a better future for all living things.

A New Breath of Fresh Air: As of Nov. 1, 2007, state law prohibits smoking inside zoological parks. Please help us abide by this law by refraining from smoking within the Zoo. Thank you for maintaining a smoke-free environment for all living things!