We believe the old adage “good things come to those who wait”. The capital campaign to bring a black rhino exhibit to the Pueblo Zoo was first launched in 2010. Since that time we have remained excited to move forward with bringing new exhibits and new animals to our community but have had to turn our attention to other pressing issues. We had to put our capital fundraising efforts on hold to close the growing operating budget gap that the zoo has faced due to rising expenses and operating budget cuts from both the City and County. At the same time, we had a huge transition in leadership as we brought on a new Executive Director.
We’re pleased to say that we are now moving in the right direction and gaining ground. The budget gap is shrinking and the addition of a new exhibit will only help the bottom line. The time is right to move forward! The Pueblo Zoo is grateful to our community for its tremendous patience and hopes that everyone will be as excited as the Pueblo Zoo Board of Directors and staff about this new direction.
To date, we have more than $700,000 in remaining pledged funds following the completion of Phase 1 of the campaign (restrooms, concession stand, picnic area). While that is a significant amount of money, construction costs have continued to rise and conservative estimates are that our planned black rhino exhibit will cost upwards of $1.7 million dollars rather than the $1.1 million first projected. While we know that our community supports us and we have seen the tremendous generosity of both monetary and in-kind donations over the years, raising another one million dollars would mean several more years before we could bring the black rhino exhibit to fruition.
But now for the good news. We know that the community wants to see new animals and the zoo needs new exhibits to generate increased admissions and revenue, so why not build a new exhibit…or exhibits now? Well, the good news is that we can!
Over the past two summers we have conducted exit interviews with our guests, asking them to tell us more about what they like at the zoo and about what they would like to see more of. It’s not surprising that the favorite exhibits at the Pueblo Zoo are the otters and penguins. People enjoy these animals because of their group social structure and activity. They know they will always be entertained when visiting them. So, it should come as no further surprise, to learn that the number one requested new exhibit is… monkeys! And this information is in keeping with data collected at zoos across the country: zoo visitors nationwide rate monkey exhibits as their overall favorite.
We’d like to bring a species of Old-World monkey to our zoo and give our visitors and members exactly what they want!
And there’s more...
Our choice to bring black rhinos to the Pueblo Zoo was reflective of our desire to highlight their tremendous conservation story and to do our part to evoke awareness of these majestic animals in their home-range in Africa. We remain committed to educating our community about the plight of animals, in-situ, in Africa and propose that we shift our focus to bring African painted dogs to the Pueblo Zoo. These unique canines are pack animals that will engage the Pueblo community with their unique markings and group behaviors. At the same time, as one of the most endangered animals on the African continent, we will have a unique opportunity to engage and educate our visitors about conservation of these incredible animals.
Yes, that is correct. Two new exhibits with two new species will be a significantly smaller capital investment for, what we believe, a far greater impact on our community and the Zoo’s bottom line. With more than $700,000 pledged to-date, we estimate that we would need to raise less than $300,000 to complete both projects. And we’d have enough in-hand to get started immediately on the primate exhibit with dogs soon after. We know that many in our community still hope to see black rhinos at our zoo. We do too and simply see this as a pause in those plans. We look forward to continuing our work with Craig Rhodes of GLMV Architects to complete this exciting expansion to our African Village as envisioned in the original campaign plans.