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Zoo Atlanta closes 2016 with nearly 1 million visitors
Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Highlights included a new attendance record, notable animal births and a new commitment to conservation and the community 

Zoo Atlanta closed 2016 with nearly a million visitors, an attendance record that has been surpassed only one other time in the Zoo’s 127-year history, in the year 2000, when giant pandas Lun Lun and Yang Yang made their debut in Atlanta. 

Zoo attendance has grown steadily year over year since 2010, with growth of 48 percent over the past six years. The 2016 attendance of 997,996 exceeded 2015 visitation by more than 77,000 guests. In turn, 2015 surpassed 2014 by more than 20,000 guests. 

“This is a huge milestone for Zoo Atlanta. It’s exciting to be able to celebrate an attendance record at a start of a new year and a new era for the Zoo,” said Raymond B. King, President and CEO. “We’re honored that the Zoo continues to grow in importance in its community. This growth means that many more individuals and families are being introduced to all that the Zoo has to offer, especially in terms of education and conservation. That’s our mission, and that’s why the Zoo’s here.” 

A keynote achievement of the year is more suggestive of the Zoo’s future than its past. In summer 2016, ahead of schedule and ahead of expectations, Zoo Atlanta announced a triumphant finish for its Grand New View capital campaign. The campaign has since raised a total of $42.5 million against an original goal of $38.1 million. Set for completion in early 2019, the project will revitalize the historic Cyclorama building and its adjacent property to create a one-of-a-kind event destination overlooking an all-new African savanna for elephants. 

Animal highlights included the births of another set of giant panda twins for Lun Lun: Ya Lun and Xi Lun, born September 3. Other new arrivals included another grandchild for the legendary late Willie B. the gorilla with the birth of an infant born to Kudzoo on September 18. The gorilla newborn was joined by many others throughout the year, including two Angolan colobus monkeys; a Schmidt’s guenon; chinchilla kits; Burmese star tortoises, eastern box turtles and pancake tortoises; Guatemalan beaded lizards; Chilean flamingo chicks; kori bustards; milky eagle owls; and a wreathed hornbill. 

Zoo Atlanta set a new pace in its commitment to the conservation of wildlife and wild places around the world with the launch of the new Quarters for Conservation program. The program donates 25 cents of every Zoo admission to field conservation projects. The program’s three introductory beneficiaries are Elephants for Africa in Botswana, the Golden Lion Tamarin Association in Brazil, and Project Golden Frog in Panama. In an increased commitment to its community, Zoo Atlanta also launched its first Safari Day Camp Scholarship Program presented by Atlanta Fulton County Recreation Authority. 

While it was their parents who drew the Zoo’s first record attendance in 2000, new sightings of their youngest daughters contributed to one of the Zoo’s best-attended Decembers on record. Born just days before the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) officially downgraded the giant panda’s conservation status from “Endangered” to “Vulnerable,” Ya Lun and Xi Lun began embarking on their first adventures in their mother’s dayroom habitat on December 27. Although the twins are still being given time to adjust to the new surroundings, and there is not yet a guarantee of seeing the cubs, Lun Lun currently has the option of bringing her offspring into the space between the hours of 9:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. daily. 

Visit zooatlanta.org to learn more about Zoo animals and programs or to plan your trip.