On this national day of reflection, we pause to give thanks for so very much:
- Our residents. “Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened,” said poet Anatole France. We couldn’t agree more. Our more than 2,000 animals are varied and vibrant, regal and recalcitrant, cranky and cuddly. They are newborns and retired senior citizens, brilliantly colored and camouflage-drab. They’re furry, and scaly, and leathery, and prickly. And we love them all. It’s an honor to care for them every day.
- Our members and guests. Nearly 23,000 families are Zoo members, supporting us year-round. And on any given day, thousands of you visit, some for the first time and others for their hundredth. Rest assured, we appreciate every last one of you.
- The most dedicated staff ever. Doesn’t matter if it’s 7 degrees and snowing; if tornadoes are crossing overhead as lightning snaps; if it’s 109 in the shade. You know who’s at work every day? Zookeepers, guest services and park services staff, our maintenance crews, our veterinarians and their teams, our nutrition experts, our educators, our media team, our restaurant vendors. And those smiles on our faces? Simply because we love what we do.
- The greatest community anywhere. We greeted more than 1 million guests this fiscal year for the first time ever. As a non-profit zoo, that kind of support helps us constantly improve, making life better for animals both here and in the wild.
- Saving wildlife. In a time when we’ve seen the number of wild animals fall by half in just the past 40 years, we are thankful for our devoted conservation partners in the field. With donations and staff time or research, we support groups working for elephants, rhinos, giraffes, cheetahs, gorillas, horned lizards, ocelots, birds and many others.
- Kipenzi. We are still in awe that we could bring this beloved giraffe calf’s live birth to millions of people around the world. We were willing to “pull back the curtain” and invite you behind the scenes with our giraffe team and our vets, because we know they provide incredible care to these gentle giants. We were blown away by your words, reading comments like, “We watched the staff, so patiently waiting, and could tell how well loved this little girl would be.” And: “Her birth was just beautiful, and I feel so honored to have been able to witness it live. You have all forever touched my life.” We read every single comment, letter and email, and we laughed, cried and smiled with you. It was a magical time.
- Support for our broken hearts. The other side of Kip’s story hit us so very hard, a powerful punch in the gut. When we lost her in that July accident, the pain went beyond words, to tears, nausea, despair. But as soon as we shared the tragic news, we were immediately enveloped in an outpouring of love and light from around the world. You told us by the tens of thousands, again, what she meant to you. You cried. You checked on our keepers (and still do). You sent food and flowers and the most gorgeous paintings and photographs, and your children drew heart-mending crayon pictures. You opened your arms and your hearts to us, as we had to you in April, and for that we will forever be thankful.
- Calm Texas weather. OK, not so much. (Just testing to see if you’re still reading!) It was a dark and stormy year, with another ice storm; rain and severe flooding almost every day in April and May; then a hot summer with virtually no showers at all. But we love Texas, and that means loving our crazy, yo-yo weather.
- Dinosaurs. Giants of the Jurassic was a giant hit. (Admit it: our 25-foot, roaring T. rex made more than a few of you scream like a little kid.) Then, our zookeeper Tim Brys and his young son, Wylie, dug up a find of a lifetime: a real, 100 million-year-old dinosaur skeleton that’s now being restored and studied by scientists. We loved seeing this adorable 5-year-old talked about in the Washington Post, ABC’s World News Tonight, the BBC and other news outlets around the world.
- What’s ahead. It’s been a wild and wonderful year of animal-packed learning, science, and conservation. But we have even bigger hopes for the upcoming year! We await word on if we will be allowed to offer a home to six elephants from drought-ravaged Swaziland, Africa. Our Monorail Safari will reopen. In January, we launch an astonishing sculpture exhibit made with more than 700,000 LEGO® bricks by artist Sean Kenney. And we’ll have another big announcement in a few months, too, about a major improvement to your Zoo.
We could go on and on, because we are thankful for so very much. But we’ll close, because well it’s time to feed the animals!
Happy Thanksgiving, with much love, from your Dallas Zoo family.