A warm, sunny end to the month helped push the Oregon Zoo’s attendance to just around 1.68 million for the fiscal year ending June 30 — making it the most-visited year in the zoo’s 125-year history.
Although the final tally isn’t in yet, attendance had already topped 1.67 million going into the last day of the year, which — with clear skies and a sold-out concert by Ziggy Marley — looked to be well attended. The previous zoo record, set in 2009-10, was 1,634,978 visits.
“People in this region have a deeper connection to animals than anyplace I’ve seen,” said Kim Smith, zoo director. “They share our vision of creating a better future for wildlife and it shows. The outpouring of support in recent years seems to have reached a whole new level.”
As usual, summer was the busiest time of year at the zoo, with almost half a million visitors passing through the gates in July and August.
Spring, too, was big: The zoo shattered its attendance record for March, when nearly 160,000 people showed up to see new arrivals like a flock of pink flamingos, a baby De Brazza’s monkey and a river otter pup just learning to swim. The zoo also set attendance records for Rabbit Romp (15,885), Easter Sunday (9,446) and spring break week for Portland Public Schools (84,131 visits; the previous record of 64,732 had been set in 1992).
December, with 219,331 visits, was another record month, as the zoo celebrated its second-most successful ZooLights run and the debut of Asian elephant calf Lily.
Smith said the strong attendance this past year will help support the zoo’s conservation, education and animal welfare efforts — and added that visitors will have even more to look forward to in the months and years ahead.
“There’s always something new to see at the zoo,” Smith said. “With work under way on both Condors of the Columbia and Elephant Lands, we will continue to evolve in a way that makes the community proud.”
Condors of the Columbia, set to open in 2014, will offer up-close looks at a species the zoo has been working behind-the-scenes to save for 10 years: the critically endangered California condor. Elephant Lands, covering 6.25 acres around the eastern edge of the zoo, will usher in a new era of animal welfare for Portland’s famous Asian elephant herd.
The Oregon Zoo continues to have the highest attendance of any fee-based tourist attraction in Oregon.