Accomplishments for 2023

Animal Care Accomplishments and Hardships

  • Several new animal tours were added to guest's options: Animal Ambassadors, Capybara, Steenbok, Reptile, Aldabras, and Sloth.
  • Said farewell to three lions, one male, two female, on loan from the Fort Worth Zoo, and two Striped Hyenas, one male, one female, on loan from Fort Worth.
  • After the death of Macho, the Zoo’s beloved Southern Black Rhino, he was replaced by Uhuru, a Southern Black Rhino from Fossil Rim born at the Fort Worth Zoo.  
  • “Walter” the King Cobra, one of the Zoo’s oldest residents, died. He was in zoos for 25 years and was estimated to be more than 30 years old. 
  • The passing of “Fred,” its oldest Trumpeter Hornbill, age 35 years.
  • The Zoo made several acquisitions, including two Ocelots, one male and one female. The species has not been represented here since 2019.
  • The Zoo applied for and was successfully permitted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to acquire Bald Eagles for the first time in its history. It received two male juvenile Bald Eagles. 
  • Other acquisitions include two lions, one male, and one female, from Albuquerque; Dyeing Poison Dart Frogs; two male Black Mambas; a female Zebra from Atlanta’s Zoo; a male Linnehan Sloth as a companion and breeder; a male Ring-Tailed Cat as a companion and breeder; male and female Maned Wolves for new bloodline breeding (and sent out the last offspring from the old bloodline); a new and very endangered species of antelope, the Bongo; and one female and three unsexed Banded Armadillos for breeding, after sending out its previous breeding female.
  • The Zoo also saw a significant number of births, including 6 Capybaras, 5 males, and 1 female; the birth of a male Blue Duiker; a Flamingo that was hatched and hand-reared; a first-ever male Secretary Bird hatched and successfully reared by its parents; the first Prehensile Tailed Porcupine was born; and the first-ever Fossa pups, two males one female, born and raised successfully. It also saw the hatching and hand-rearing of Madagascar Teal, a first for the Zoo, and the hatching and hand-rearing of Roadrunners. 
  • The zoo also acquired an Opossum and 9 Banded Armadillo for its Animal Ambassador collection from Big Country Wildlife Rehab; a hatched and hand-reared helmeted Guinea Fowl, added to its exhibit flock and to the Ambassador Collection; and a Laughing Kookaburra for the Ambassador Collection, the first time for this species to be represented. The Zoo also rescued more than 50 Zebra Finches, which now live in Elm Creek indoor aviary.

Development Accomplishments

  • Completed the Zoo Master Plan and presented it to Parks and Recreation and the Abilene City Council for approval.
  • City Council approved a $15 million Bond for Zoo Improvements to partially fund Phase 1 of the Zoo’s Master Plan. Voters subsequently approved the initiative in November 2023. 
  • Partnered with the Abilene Texas Convention and Visitors Bureau to promote tourism in Abilene at the San Antonio Stock Show Rodeo for the second time. 
  • Had a record attendance of over 20,000 guests for the Zoo’s fundraising event Boo at the Zoo 2022.
  • The Development team and the Abilene Zoological Society raised more than $140,000 in sponsorships to support events like Wild Days, DreamNight, Boo at the Zoo, and Christmas Celebration.
  • The last Fireworks show took place on July 4, 2023, as development began for Abilene Youth Sports Authority’s flat fields. 
  • The Zoo redesigned and launched a new website. 
  • Zoobilation had a record year with more than 350 attendees and raised more than $130,000 to support the Master Plan.
Zoo 2023 Bond - Cafe Exterior
Zoo 2023 Bond - Lion Habitat

Facilities Upgrades

  • Transplanted more than 12 mature trees and 50 saplings throughout the Zoo property.
  • Added 50% more Wetland decking for guests to view the Whooping Crane habitat.  Whooping crane yard spaces increased by 120%.  As well as a new warm holding for Whooping Cranes.
  • A new warm holding for Albert the alligator was added, which allows guests to see him year-round.
  • A new warm holding for Caribbean Flamingos was added. Guests will be able to view them year-round in Spring 2024.
  • The Outdoor Elm Creek pedestrian rail was replaced with metal and other aesthetically pleasing materials. The project will be completed in early 2024.
  • Outdoor Elm Creek exhibits were all renovated.
  • Added porch viewing for Squirrel Monkey/Prehensile Porcupine holding.
  • Corrected the Zoo’s west perimeter fence along AEP from 6.5’ to 8’. 
  • Rerouted all sewer lines from the Americas Wetlands habitats to City sewer versus directly into Tittle Lake.
  • Added 2 artist murals to the plaza atrium.
  • 3 more exhibits were refurbished and remodeled in the Reptile House.
  • The Elm Creek service area was repaired/upgraded and a new XL commercial-grade sink/sanitizing area was installed.

Attendance Accomplishments

  • Boo at the Zoo 2022 had record attendance and revenue.

Conservation Accomplishments

  • Donated more than $10,000 to conservation.
  • Funded the bird rescue rehab center for its sixth year. The center helps support Big Country birds that require rehabilitation. The rehab had a record year of rescues for all species of birds, with 587 birds and a record release of 226.
  • The zoo's permanent resident Einstein (a female Great Horned Owl), successfully reared her second rescued Great Horned Owlet by herself.  

Staffing Additions

The Zoo created 12 new positions, including:

  • 3 full-time facilities positions
  • A full-time Social Media Specialist
  • A full-time Registrar position
  • 3 Temporary Keepers
  • 3 Temporary Educators
  • 1 Temporary Events position