The gift — the largest in the zoo's history — will support completion of the first phase of a twenty-year master plan in time for the zoo's centennial in 2022. The plan calls for a reconfiguration of the zoo's campus into experiential zones that highlight ecosystems and wildlife found in Texas and around the world, with conservation messaging integrated throughout. In addition, a portion of the gift, $5 million, will be dedicated to conservation projects.
Nearly half the zoo's acreage will be redeveloped during phase one of the project, including a zone dedicated to Texas wildlife featuring alligators, bald eagles, whooping cranes, turtles, and waterfowl; a zone dedicated to the tropical wetlands of Brazil, home to jaguars, monkeys, giant river otters, capybaras, birds, and tapirs; a zone dedicated to the Galapagos Islands featuring sea lions, sharks, and giant tortoises; and a space showcasing the zoo's bird conservation efforts.
The zoo, which was privatized in 2002, has secured a total of $102 million during the quiet phase of the campaign through individual, foundation, and corporate contributions as well as its own revenue streams.
"We aim to redefine what a zoo can be with beautiful and immersive habitats, compelling guest experiences, and an unyielding commitment to saving wildlife," said Houston Zoo president and CEO Lee Ehmke. "I invite you to join me on this thrilling journey to build the world-class zoo Houston deserves. Together, we will keep our world wild."