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Monday, March 12, 2018

We're on a new mission

Posted by: Alejandro Grajal, PhD, President and CEO

Your enduring loyalty and support mean you care deeply about Woodland Park Zoo’s future and the value it creates for your family and for the community you love. Since coming aboard at the zoo, I’ve been on a learning tour—listening to the community’s hopes and dreams for this 92-acre oasis, and ways the zoo can shape the future of wildlife conservation.

We are all wrestling with a difficult truth: Our impact on this planet is profound and pervasive. In reality, all wildlife and wild places are now in human care. We have been asking ourselves: what more can we, as a modern conservation zoo, do with this responsibility?

In a region renowned for its innovative, out-of-the-box thinking and strong environmental ethic, a lot, it turns out.



You spoke. We listened.

Last summer, I asked the zoo’s Board of Directors and staff to hold conversations with the community. We invited more than 80,000 people from all over the region, U.S. and globe to share their ideas about the zoo’s future. Surveys, focus groups and interviews engaged more than 6,000 diverse people, including zoo members, supporters, volunteers and staff, as well as conservation partners, community and business leaders, teachers, and students. 

What we learned was energizing. Today, the world is calling on zoos to transform the relationship between people, our planet and all its creatures—to be catalysts for positive social change. That’s a tall order! But we are undaunted.

Closer than ever. Our newly expanded Ambassador Animal program sparks an emotional connection between animals and people, motivating action to help wildlife and our planet.

Our journey

With you as our guiding light, we’re embarking on an exciting new chapter in Woodland Park Zoo’s storied history, with a more expansive mission and a bold, new strategy

Mission: Woodland Park Zoo saves wildlife and inspires everyone to make conservation a priority in their lives.

This succinct declaration of our purpose says Why we are here, What we stand for and Who we are serving. Making conservation everybody’s responsibility requires all hands on deck. Clearly, we are aiming for the largest scale of impact. 


We humans face our biggest ethical challenge yet: Whether we will choose to live on this planet sustainably, with all its creatures. Our urgent call as a leading zoo is to be a megaphone that amplifies a resounding "Yes!" from everyone.


We’re confident that with you by our side—our 1.34 million annual guests, the 35 million people touched by our social media channels, and our vast local and global reach—we can mobilize our diverse voices and all our choices to ignite a powerful movement for conservation. Our relevance is no less than the Earth’s future!

Three strategic priorities drive and challenge us on this journey.


All conservation starts with caring...

We care. Animal welfare is at the heart of all conservation. It drives everything we do for our 1,200 animals and those we protect in the wild. Our devotion is providing the best care by the best professionals in the world, bar none. Our promise, to you and to our animals, is to push the standards of excellence and exemplify the highest quality of transparent and ethical care. We will show our guests the reasons to care and intimately connect them to our compassion and expertise.

Laser therapy fit for a penguin. Excellent care means our animals live long, vibrant lives. Your zoo is one of the first in the U.S. to integrate physical rehabilitation into our comprehensive animal wellness program, reducing the need for invasive procedures and ensuring our animals thrive at every age.


and transforming lives through extraordinary experiences...

We inspire. Extraordinary experiences spark empathy for animals. They strengthen our bonds with other species and with each other. Authentic, deeply emotional connections with animals move people to take action! We commit to creating the most powerful zoo experiences possible, full of empathy, discovery and hope. And, most importantly, to be welcoming to people of all backgrounds and abilities. Only with a full diversity of voices and interests at the table can we accelerate lasting solutions for wildlife and human co-existence. This is our promise to the next generation.

If anyone can, Seattle Youth CAN! (Seattle Youth Climate Action Network) Through powerful, life-changing experiences with animals, your zoo is empowering the next generation of conservation and science leaders to rise up and build a sustainable future for wildlife and people.


to empower a movement for conservation.

We empower. Wildlife conservation needs us to join hands and multiply our effect exponentially so that we can save more species and more habitats here and around the world. With 35 conservation partners locally and globally, and thousands of collaborators in schools, businesses, neighborhoods and agencies, our impact is palpable.

Still, we must do more. Building a new relationship with nature means changing minds and hearts in novel, cutting-edge ways. While nothing replaces the wonder and inspiration sparked by up-close animal experiences, our region’s top high-tech partners are improving our wildlife conservation research, helping to amplify our conservation story, and to engage and activate millions more people in protection and policy solutions. Our huge, passionate audience is diving in to reach the goal with us.


Otter Spotter. In the reflection, a ZooCorps teen volunteer uses a digital tablet to enter behavioral observations into the zoo's Otter Spotter citizen science database. The research project, powered by community participation, tracks otter activity across Washington to monitor populations across a gradient, from polluted urban waterways to pristine protected lands. 


You are at the heart of it

We see a brighter future for animals and people. We see them thriving together. We see hope for a cause worth committing our lives to. And we continue to listen. 

The world is calling on zoos to ignite a powerful movement for conservation by uniting all our voices and all our choices for the cause. YOU are at the heart of it. With you on our team, our collective impact will be exponential.

Let’s get to work!

PS: Already, momentum and early successes are mounting. I’m delighted to share our 2017 Impact Report, highlighting how you and thousands of people like you are making conservation a priority in your lives and helping to ignite this powerful movement.

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