"The longer I work in zoos, the more I have come to believe that connecting visitors with the animals they see right in front of them is still the best service we can render. In other words, the animals that reside in zoos become ambassadors for their kind."
As the Zoo entered the 1970s, it was starting to show its age and was facing a new set of challenges. Some buildings that were celebrated when they were first built were deemed inadequate for housing animals. Money woes led some to believe that the Zoo would need to be shrunk or possibly even closed. Bill Hoff, who served as director from 1970 to 1973, warned that the Zoo was no longer one of the top three or four in the world and ran the risk of dropping out of the top 10.
Voters came to the rescue.
Thanks to an unprecedented campaign led by Howard Baer, president of the Zoological Board of Control, city and county voters approved the Zoo-Museum District in 1971, giving a portion of property taxes from both areas to the Zoo and other cultural institutions.
Along with this new infusion of money and an increasing donor base came big changes. Big Cat Country replaced the barred cages of the crumbling Lion House, and the interiors of the historic buildings were remodeled to create more naturalistic exhibits.
In 2004, the Saint Louis Zoo established the WildCare Institute under the leadership of president and CEO Dr. Jeffrey P. Bonner. The Zoo has identified 12 areas around the globe for research and conservation. We are researching and preserving animal populations ranging from the hellbender salamanders of Missouri Ozarks to the lemurs of Madagascar.
The Zoo today has changed tremendously since its inception 100 years ago, yet the original mission has remained the same throughout all those changes. It is a place where families can come to enjoy a unique and wonderful experience with animals; where the opportunities to learn about and appreciate wild things in wild places grow every day; and where Zoo staff are committed not only to providing the best care for all of the Zoo's animals, but to taking the mission "beyond the fence" to protect and preserve wildlife everywhere.