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Monday, July 13, 2015

New Strategic Plan: Growing our Reach and Impact

Plus our heartfelt thanks to Deborah Jensen for 13 years of service!

Posted by: Bruce Bohmke, Acting President and CEO


Bruce Bohmke.

Dear Friends,

As zoo members, supporters and partners, you are an integral force in the success of our mission. You also have a vested interest in the future of your zoo. So, on behalf of all the zoo staff and board of directors, it is my pleasure to introduce you to Woodland Park Zoo’s new Strategic Plan 2015-2018: Growing our Reach and Impact.

You’ll be proud to know that Woodland Park Zoo is already recognized as a standard-setter among top zoos and aquariums in the U.S. With this plan as our compass, we will evolve to meet our community’s current and future needs, while further shaping and modeling the purpose of zoo-based conservation organizations in the 21st century.

Because a significant rise in population is anticipated for the Puget Sound region, we must dramatically increase our reach and impact to serve a growing community. But there is an even greater reason we must do so. In a world of dwindling habitats and climate adaptation for all animals, including humans, we must engage millions of people in a transformational challenge: learning to share the planet’s finite resources sustainably with other species.

Click to read the Woodland Park Zoo Strategic Plan 2015-2018.

Improving the zoo experience for you and with you, and engaging a broader array of our community in meeting local and global environmental challenges, requires a steadfast gaze on our shared vision—a world in which people protect wildlife and conserve habitats for all species. 

To focus on this vision and further empower people as active partners in our mission, we have committed to strategic investments in six key areas. Reflecting expansion and innovation in some areas, and focus and refinement in others, all six commitments align synergistically to improve the efficacy of our quest: a more sustainable future for wildlife and people. 

Strategic Goals 2015-2018

1. Build the Guest Experience of the Future
2. Advance Animal Well-being and Species Conservation 
3. Grow our Conservation Actions and Impact
4. Empower People through Conservation and Science Education 
5. Accelerate the Reach and Awareness of our Mission
6. Strengthen our Organization

The strategic plan was informed by performance and benchmarking data, member and visitor exit surveys, community polling, and stakeholder interviews that occurred throughout 2014. We thank all those involved, and the consultancy Zoo Advisors, for their help in charting our road ahead.

Program and Capital Outlook

What can you expect to see and experience over the next four years? There’s a lot to get excited about. 


First of all, our new Guest Experience Plan charts the way for exhibits, interpretive engagements, and science learning programs to provide more opportunities to get closer to animals and to enjoy more interactive experiences with expert keepers and educators.

You’ll enjoy the evolution of our living collection through enhanced breeding and acquisition programs for endangered and threatened species, including tigers, snow leopards, Asian turtles, amphibians, tropical birds, Matschie’s tree kangaroos and more. 


Along with fascinating natural histories of favorite animals, you’ll be more richly immersed in the science of caring for species, both at the zoo and in the wild. Critical health connections among animals, people, livelihoods, and landscapes will be an important theme.


The reason to see animals at the zoo is to save them in the wild. With more explicit ties between our award-winning exhibits and our field conservation programs, you’ll enjoy more compelling stories of our Partners for Wildlife working to save these animals in the field. And you’ll have more immediate, hands-on ways to get involved in innovative projects in our own Northwest backyard and around the world. 

Enhanced social media and interactive learning technologies, along with new education and conservation partnerships, will facilitate more effective and innovative wildlife action campaigns and accelerate the reach and awareness of our mission. 


The goal is to enlarge the number of students, teachers and families, especially those from underserved communities, participating in science learning and in tangible conservation projects while also improving the measurable impact of every zoo experience.

Our zoo is a complex organization. To grow our reach and impact requires seamlessly weaving together many disciplines—the biological and veterinary sciences, conservation and animal care, teaching and learning, architecture, landscape design and horticulture, research, and customer service and community building, just to name a few! 


Strengthening our organization calls on us to more effectively leverage all our assets—people, dollars and brand—as One Zoo.

Many inroads have already been made on the plan’s first year. Thanks to thousands of generous supporters, the new Malayan tiger and sloth bear exhibit—Banyan Wilds—opened this May to great public acclaim. 


Along with improvements to Zoomazium and its 10-year anniversary celebration, look for the much-loved butterflies exhibit to return in 2016, along with the popular Night Exhibit in 2018. 




Over the next two years, we will expand our presentation animal program, a favorite among youngsters, schools and community groups. For many, this gateway program is their first intimate animal experience, an especially effective one for sparking lifelong empathy for wildlife. In addition, we will lead national research on the development of empathy in children and adults.


To learn more, I encourage you to read through our strategic plan, then dialogue with us via email or when you next visit the zoo. What are you most excited about as we build the zoo’s future? Where do you wish to play a more active role? 

Our roadmap to the future builds on our organization’s past achievements. On this essential note, we are immensely grateful to Deborah Jensen, our president and CEO since 2002, who departs July 31 for a new adventure at the University of Washington’s College of the Environment. '

Deborah brought a combination of systems thinking, science savvy, and nonprofit and conservation leadership at a significant time in the zoo’s history as we transitioned to a new, 20-year management agreement with the City of Seattle. Over the last 13 years, Deborah helped unify our organizational culture and led our staff’s efforts to nearly double total annual revenue, dramatically increasing philanthropic and earned revenue while ensuring the stability of much-needed public funding. 

Dr. Deborah Jensen. Photo by Matt Hagen.

Investing in growth of our organization’s programs and partnerships has resulted in greater welfare for animals; more modern and more green exhibits and facilities; more hands-on science and conservation learning for students, teachers and families; higher quality customer service and guest amenities; increased capacity-building and legislative efforts to save wild landscapes; deeper staff and community engagement in protecting wildlife and nature; and the largest membership base among Puget Sound area science and cultural attractions. 

The WPZ Board of Directors, staff and I are grateful for Deborah’s steadfast commitment to our mission. We wish her every success in her next chapter. 

The biggest compliment we can pay now is to celebrate these successes, accelerate our evolution as a conservation zoo, and involve more people in learning, caring and acting on behalf of wildlife. With a solid strategic plan, a committed board, the enthusiasm of 350 staff and 750 volunteers, and loyal members and donors, we are certainly poised to deliver on this promise. 

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