Zoo Breaks Ground on Project Supporting Animal Ambassador Expansion (Media Release)

Contact:  Kyle Shepherd
(O) 502-238-5331 (C) 502-744-5639  

Today, officials from the Louisville Zoo broke ground on a project that will support the growth and development of its Animal Ambassador Program.

Mayor Greenberg joined Louisville Zoo Director Dan Maloney, Deputy Mayor Nicole George, Zoo Foundation Board Chair Becky Phillips, members of the Future Healers Got Zoo Buddies program, Councilman Mulvihill’s Legislative aide Geoff Wohl, former Zoo Director John Walczak, and donors to break ground on the Zoo’s latest construction project — renovations to the MetaZoo education facility’s animal ambassador areas and new office spaces.

“We are excited to begin construction on this critical next step in the growth of our Animal Ambassador Program, which connects so many in our region to memorable, awe-inspiring learning experiences,” said Louisville Zoo Director Dan Maloney. “As accreditation standards evolve for ambassador programs, we are working to stay ahead of and exceed guidelines for animal welfare. The planned renovations will reinforce the Zoo as the hub of conservation education for the region and reaffirm our commitment to outstanding animal care.”

The renovations will establish new holding areas on-site at the Zoo that are equipped to house a wide variety of species. The Zoo plans to renovate its existing MetaZoo education facility to house ambassador animals and meet future accreditation requirements while also enhancing and growing its ability to engage guests though on-site, virtual and off-site encounters.

Accreditation by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) is the gold standard for Zoos. It ensures the highest standard for exemplary animal care and welfare, as well as inspiring, educational, guest experiences. The Louisville Zoo undergoes a rigorous inspection by the AZA every five years as part of the re-accreditation process. The Zoo is proud to have been accredited since 1980 — each year meeting and exceeding the ever-rising standards.

The renovations to the animal holding and enrichment areas will mean the conservation education team will need to relocate. A new building adjacent to the MetaZoo will be completed as part of this project for this team. The new building will provide office spaces and a training center to connect virtually with students and teachers across the U.S. and will also help the team and volunteers prepare for camps, classes, special events, and programs.

In total, $2,737,350 has been raised to support this initiative. All donations are private dollars solicited by the Zoo Foundation Board and Zoo staff, or proceeds received by Friends of the Louisville Zoo from their two major events, Zoofari and Brew at the Zoo. Nineteen major donors (those making gifts of $10,000 or more) will be recognized on special plaques inside the MetaZoo once renovations are complete. All donors contributing $1,000 or more will be honored on a sign that will be placed on the exterior of the MetaZoo upon completion of the project. Many of the donations received were gifted in honor of former director, John Walczak, in celebration of his many years of service to the Zoo before his retirement in 2021.  The new education building will be named the David and Patricia Dalton Education Building.

Presently, the Zoo has a small number of education animals such as chinchillas, box turtles, tegu, an armadillo, small snakes, and an opossum to engage with students and families during education programs. Sloth encounters were also introduced as part of the Ambassador Program in 2021. Renovations will offer animals new holding areas with flexible use spaces to support the current ambassadors and those that may join the Zoo in the future.

Construction will begin immediately and the project is estimated to be completed by summer 2024.

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The Louisville Zoo, the State Zoo of Kentucky, is the top, non-profit, paid attraction in the state. The Zoo is dedicated to bettering the bond between people and our planet by providing excellent care for animals, a great experience for visitors, and leadership in scientific research and conservation education. The Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).

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