Zoo Update: December 2021

Denise Verret posing with the giraffes
Denise M. Verret, Zoo Director and CEO Photo by Jamie Pham

COVID-19 and the events of 2020 fundamentally changed how we engage with each other, how we live, and how we see the world around us. I am in awe of how the Zoo family came together during this past year, and 2021 ultimately became a year of growth, rebuilding, and stabilization. I look forward to entering this new year with a renewed energy in working with you all towards our mission of saving wildlife from extinction – together. 

This past year still held minor setbacks due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether it was our operational status, COVID-19 vaccination requirements, patron capacity, or the ever-present uncertainty each new strain of COVID-19 brought us, we were still navigating the effects of an unprecedented pandemic. However, we did outshine and overshadow these challenging moments with the successes the Zoo achieved during this year of recovery. A major accomplishment this year was the launch of the Zoo’s first-ever Conservation Strategic Plan.  

This five-year plan propels the Zoo in a bold new direction, engaging Angelenos to become stewards of their planet with the hope of creating a just world in which people and wildlife thrive together. Dr. Jake Owens, Director of Conservation, launched this plan in July, and the Zoo has already seen successful partnerships begin as part of it. This summer, the Zoo’s Conservation Committee collaborated with the L.A. Parks Foundation and Griffith Park Commonwealth Nursery to plant Griffith Park’s first native microforest at the Bette Davis Picnic Area. This project sets the standard for how the Zoo will engage our communities and partners in 2022 and beyond, to continue our mission of saving species from extinction, starting right here in our own backyard. We will not be able to succeed without you. 

As the pandemic became our new normal this year, it became apparent that Angelenos were looking for ways to safely spend time together after being isolated for most of 2020 and re-emerge in their City. Going outdoors in nature was one safe and welcome solution, and the Los Angeles Zoo strives to be an inclusive space for all. Since reopening in February, the L.A. Zoo has welcomed over a million visitors through our gates, which far surpassed our goals and expectations this year. We continue to provide an invaluable resource for our City, and I am proud of how the Zoo came together to navigate these last two years. I have hope. I have faith. I have optimism that, together, we can continue our path to achieving our mission. Here’s to a new year and more successes to come. 

Author: Denise Verret