ZooTampa ends 2019 with record achievements, launches ambitious 2020 calendar of events

2019 Recap & 2020 Plan

TAMPA, Fla. (January 7, 2020) – Building upon a momentous 2019 that encompassed ongoing renovations, exciting events, the opening of a state-of-the-art animal care center, a new conservation education center, significant animal births, varying species conservation milestones and continued leadership in the rescue, rehabilitation and release of Florida species, ZooTampa at Lowry Park announced today an ambitious plan to continue its mission-driven work in 2020.

“ZooTampa is recognized as central Florida’s leading and most attended zoological cultural institution. Our commitment to connect and inspire others to join our mission to protect and preserve wildlife is at the forefront of everything we do. We achieved numerous milestones in 2019 which speaks to the exceptional talent and relentless dedication of our staff, board of trustees and supporters,” said Joe Couceiro, CEO of ZooTampa. “We expect our momentum to continue in 2020 with an ambitious calendar of guest-centric and animal care initiatives that include seasonal events, community service programs, distinctive signature encounters and development of new expansive, naturalistic wildlife habitats.”

In recounting a successful 2019, Couceiro noted numerous zoo highlights including:

  • The opening of the renovated David A. Straz, Jr. Manatee Critical Care Center, which remains the largest non-profit, acute care facility of its kind specifically dedicated to providing critical care for wild manatees. Since reopening nine months ago, center staff provided expert care for more than 20 manatees suffering injuries from boat strikes, cold stress, and red tide. Manatees are at the heart of ZooTampa’s commitment to conservation of Florida wildlife. In more than 20 years, the zoo has cared for more than 400 manatees, with 258 manatees that have been returned to Florida waters.
  • Completion of the Jacarlene Foundation Animal Care Campus, which incorporates four buildings dedicated to state-of-the-art animal care. One component is the Tom and Sandy Callahan Conservation Center which offers guest education on the Zoo’s leadership in Florida and worldwide wildlife conservation.
  • Arrival of two endangered panther kittens, orphaned after their mother suffered from an unknown neurological disorder. ZooTampa is part of the team of experts that is working collaboratively to help Florida panthers as the investigation continues into neurological disorder affecting the species.
  • Successful breeding and release of threatened Florida indigo snakes.
  • Birth of the first koala baby at ZooTampa as part of the Species Survival Plan (SSP) to help save wildlife, including this vulnerable species.
  • Successful completion of Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) re-accreditation process, as well as earning accreditation for the third year in a row by the American Animal Hospital Association. ZooTampa’s Catherine Lowry Straz Veterinary Hospital remains the only veterinary hospital inside a zoo that has been accredited by the AAHA.
  • Increased zoo impact globally through support of conservation partners working in the field to protect species and their natural habitats. These projects include, supporting the International Rhino Foundation’s anti-poaching initiatives.
  • We expanded on community events including our sensory friendly Days of Discovery, Expedition Survivor cancer support event and Family Fun Day for underprivileged families.

As 2020 commences, the zoo reaffirms its commitment to our mission to create a year-round calendar of activities that immerse guests into animal experiences beyond the ordinary that help foster connections with nature, wildlife and each other, including:

  • The national premiere of Nat Geo WILD’s “Secrets of the Zoo: Tampa” on Jan 5. The six-part series offers an unprecedented and intimate look at some of the world’s most endangered and fascinating species and the dedicated team at ZooTampa entrusted with their care. A second season is currently being filmed.
  • Building upon the success and appeal of key seasonal events, beginning this Spring with an all new Dinos Alive at ZooTampa. This adventure of epic proportions connects prehistoric species to modern day wildlife found at the zoo. Guests can travel back in time and come face-to-face with animated, larger-than-life dinosaurs from a Stegosaurus to a T-Rex. The limited-time event will feature interactive adventures for explorers of all ages. Other seasonal happenings include a wild celebration for the senses at ZooBrews, startling eerie family frights at Creatures of the Night, and incredible light displays at Christmas in the Wild.
  • New amazing species will be introduced, including a sun bear, which is the smallest and most rare of all the bear species. Binturongs, with a face like a cat’s and a body like a bear’s, are a vulnerable species that are not often seen in the wild by humans. Bonobos, one of the most rare and intelligent animals in the world. A new habitat for critically vulnerable shoe bill storks, a large-bodied bird with an unusually outsized bulbous bill that is interesting to observe.
  • Expanded ways to safely connect guests with animals, including new offerings of behind-the-scenes tours, as well as, up-close signature encounters with rhinos, elephants, giraffes, Aldabra tortoises, koalas, stingrays and more.
  • Continue to lead in conservation education through outreach and in-park programs and events serving the Tampa Bay area, as well as, diverse and underserved communities. Additionally, our award-winning environmental education center, Zoo School, celebrates its 20th anniversary.

“2019 was a banner year for us, with more to come in 2020 and beyond as ZooTampa continues to transform, offering unique and unforgettable natural connections that form lifelong memories,” said Couceiro. “National Geographic summed it up well when they affirmed ZooTampa as, ‘The ideal destination for anyone who loves animals.’ I am confident that our full slate of 2020 activities will delight anyone who aligns with our mission and seeks to connect with the magnificent creatures who share our world.”

About ZooTampa at Lowry Park

ZooTampa at Lowry Park is operated by the Lowry Park Zoological Society, an independent 501(c)(3) charitable organization committed to excellence in conservation, education, recreation and research. The Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and is recognized as central Florida’s leading and most attended zoological cultural institution. ZooTampa is an eight-time winner of the Certificate of Excellence award by TripAdvisor (2010-2018) and is a leader in the rehabilitation and care of Florida species. The Zoo is located at 1101 W. Sligh Avenue in Tampa, and is open seven days a week, from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. with extended hours for select events. Parking is free. For more, visit www.zootampa.org . Also, find the Zoo on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.