2012 Year in Review
Friday, January 4, 2013
A walk through the Zoo 100 years ago would reveal men in bowler hats and ladies in long skirts. If we wanted to amaze those same guests with the Zoo of today, 2012 would be an outstanding year for the time machine to land.
We saw the highest paid attendance day in Zoo Atlanta history, with more than 20,200 guests attending Walmart Sunday Funday in February. Several months broke attendance records not seen since “The Panda Era,” so named for the debut of Lun Lun and Yang Yang in 1999, making 2012 the second-highest year for attendance since the Zoo opened in 1889. And we continued to ensure that the resources of the Zoo were available to all Georgians with an unprecedented number of library pass redemptions.
We celebrated our first sold-out Brew at the Zoo, followed by a successful Jazzoo and Boo at the Zoo. We made the Zoo magical for chronically ill and injured children at our second annual Dreamnight. And we had fun spooking partygoers at our first-ever Cobwebs and Cocktails.
New close encounters
We brought guests closer than ever before with giraffe feeding from Twiga Terrace, and we opened all-new Wild Encounters with African elephants, Komodo dragon and giant pandas. And habitats around the Zoo expanded to welcome new faces, including Loki and Thor the raccoon dogs and Sherlock and Watson the lesser kudus.
We bid bon voyage to animals on the move. Kavi the Sumatran tiger traveled to National Zoo to meet a new lady friend. And Tyson the alligator, carefully caught from the Wonderful Wetlands by Dr. Brad Lock and the Herpetology Keepers, headed to the St. Augustine Farm, where it was later revealed that “his” ornery temperament was actually a display of girl power.
Giant panda program
We wondered just how long Lun Lun would tolerate having her son Po in the nest. And while Po clung to Mom’s apron strings, we celebrated a distinguished nod to the long term achievements of our giant panda program with the AZA International Conservation Award.
Great ape program
We watched the Great Ape Heart Project become an international phenomenon, just as the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) awarded the project its second federal grant. And we had even more cause for pride when one of the project’s first patients, Ozzie the western lowland gorilla, rose to the status of oldest known male gorilla in captivity in the world.
As is always the case in the life of the Zoo, the passage of a year also means looking back on goodbyes to special friends. Ivan the gorilla was more than an icon: His storied life was a looking glass into the evolution of zoos and the power of concerned individuals to affect positive change coast-to-coast. Mona the giraffe was an outstanding mother to Lily, a trusting friend to her care staff, and a real star at the Twiga Terrace deck. Our mate Charlie the red kangaroo was a bonzer bloke, and his daughters Pontoof and Kateena were beautiful sheilas. Butterfinger and Oreo the Kunekune pigs and Amani the goat brought delight to hundreds of children in their years in the petting zoo. The not-so-prickly Cousteau the hedgehog was a favorite among handlers and a veteran of animal encounters and education programs. The lights of the Wildlife Theater stage dimmed for Solito the sun conure, a spirited ambassador of the Wildlife Theater show for more than 20 years. Garbanzo the peacock ended a long and charmed life, and White 44 the ostrich was much more than fuss and feathers. Narita the raccoon dog was already in her golden years by the time we opened Trader’s Alley, but in her time with us, she introduced countless guests to her species. And the Rabbs’ fringe-limbed tree frog, last of his kind on Earth, brought a solitary reminder of the true reason we’re all here.
Of course, we also experienced joy and awe (AWW!) over the happy beginnings of new lives around the Zoo (more than 200, as a matter of fact). We welcomed our first toco toucans. Robin and Theo the golden lion tamarins had a new youngster to hoist upon their tiny backs. A newborn blue crane grew up without benefit of a mom, but anyone who saw the little fellow trotting along behind humans mysteriously garbed in white knows that the Bird Department went the extra mile to compensate. Betel the wreathed hornbill rose to the occasion again with the care of his other half, Zelda, and their newest chick. Our tawny frogmouth pair showed us all why frogmouth chicks are some of the Web’s most Google-able babies. Matilda the eastern bongo delivered a gorgeous female calf – a year to the day since delivering Beauregard, her first. And it’s rumored – but not confirmed – that the tough guys of the Herpetology Department actually cooed over the hatching of our very first Guatemalan beaded lizard.
We watched nearly 200 gopher frogs, diamondback terrapins and eastern indigo snakes hop, crawl, and slither off into the wilds of their native habitats as part of head-start programs at the Zoo. And these were just three of the many species around the world that will benefit in the year to come and the years beyond because of the work done here.
Thanks for a wonderful year – we look forward to marking many more new beginnings in the year to come.