The Washington Park Zoo has set a new record for attendance during its 2019 season with 103,123 visitors, up from the zoo’s all-time record attendance in 2017 of 100,122. While many of the zoo attendees came from Michigan City, about 88% were from out of town and their impact on the local economy is estimated at $7,734,225.00.
“Welcoming 100,000 people through our gates was once again our goal this year, and we thank the community and visitors for their continued support,” said Jamie Huss, Zoo Director. “With the restoration and renovations to the historic castle, along with all of the smaller improvements, new animal additions and the focus to the enhancement of the landscape, it was an eventful season here at the Washington Park Zoo. There's always something new to see at the zoo. Currently, renovation plans are in the works to hopefully expand the African Lion and Bengal Tiger habitats in 2020, as well as other zoo plans that will allow us to continue to evolve in a way that makes the community proud.
2019 was the zoo’s 91st season and brought with it many other celebrated highlights, including earning its re-accreditation by the Zoological Association of America (ZAA). To be accredited, the zoo underwent a thorough review to ensure it has and will continue to meet the ever-rising standards in categories, which include animal care and welfare, veterinary programs, conservation, education, and safety. The ZAA requires zoos and aquariums to successfully complete this rigorous accreditation process every five years in order to be members of the Association. The Washington Park Zoo has been continuously accredited by the ZAA since 2004.
In 2014, the Washington Park Zoo closed out the year by unveiling new branding for the zoo which focused on making sure that each animal has the best possible care and that every guest has a memorable zoo experience. Each year the zoo has continued to complete its project goals and expand it’s ongoing 5-year strategic plan, which includes upgrading exhibits, buildings, and grounds.
The zoo believes that the increased attendance is attributed to the community’s awareness of the zoo and the plans for future growth and continued enhancement. The zoo relies on that community support not only with visitors, but also monetary donations, volunteer time and gifted items from its wish list. The support allows the zoo to continue to make improvements to its many programs, including conservation, education and animal care.
Education is an integral part of our zoo and helps to spread our message of wildlife conservation by engaging guests in fun, interactive programs that help foster stewards of wildlife. Our programs include special events, summer camps, outreach programs, in-house programs, tours, scout programs, and more.
The Washington Park Zoo is home to over 200 animals. We are dedicated to being a sanctuary for exotic animals in need of a safe home. Some of the zoo’s residents have been misplaced pets that proved to be too wild or were confiscated as being illegally owned. Some have suffered injuries that would make life in the wild impossible and others were removed from their natural habitat by the DNR. In all cases, the residents are given the best environments that our staff can provide for their health and mental enrichment needs. Our staff is dedicated to the health and welfare of the animals in our care and their relatives in the wild.
Since many of the animals are rescues, breeding programs are specialized for those animals that are vital to the international Zoo Species Survival Plan (SSP) and for captive populations. The zoo did welcome some amazing births this year, including twin Golden- Handed Tamarins, Dart Frogs, and first-time birth milestones with the addition of two Barn Owls and a Three-Banded Armadillo.
The Washington Park Zoo is now closed for the season and will reopen in April but will continue to keep the public updated on zoo happenings on their Facebook and website. Reservations can also still be made for 2020 field trips and the very popular outreach program known as the “Zoo to You”, which brings animals to schools, nursing homes, and other education facilities by contacting the zoo office.
The zoo staff would like to thank the community and guests for their wonderful patronage of the ‘best little zoo in the Midwest,’ and we look forward to seeing all of you back again in April 2020.
For more information about the Washington Park Zoo, please visit us on Facebook or at www.washingtonparkzoo.com.