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Help the Zoo Relocate and Expand

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Help the zoo relocate and expand!

3/29/2019 Update: On May 28, the Sacramento City Council unanimously approved the zoo’s request for an in-depth study to further analyze the top tier sites identified for proposed zoo relocation. Once concluded, this site analysis and funding study will help us to take the next important step as we work to continue to fulfill the zoo’s mission of conservation and animal welfare and become a true 21st-century zoological institution. Stay tuned as we move forward with the site analysis and work to determine the best, most feasible location for the new, expanded Sacramento Zoo. We appreciate the overwhelming support of our community. We can’t create the new Sacramento Zoo without you!



African lodge rendering

As you are likely aware, the Sacramento Zoo is exploring relocation and expansion within Sacramento city limits. While news of the most recent exploration broke in late 2018, this concept is nothing new to the zoo or to the City of Sacramento.

At various stages throughout the zoo’s history, the concept of relocation has been explored as part of an effort to ensure the zoo’s long-term viability as a vital conservation and education-based amenity for our region. In the 1980s, in 1996 and again in 2010, the need for a new, larger, modern Sacramento Zoo was explored by both the zoo and the City of Sacramento.

A 2010 feasibility study, commissioned by the City, delved deeper into the need for zoo relocation and several potential relocation sites within city limits. The study once again determined that a new, much-expanded and modern zoological facility was necessary to secure a viable future for the region’s zoo, and all that it stands for.

Fast-forward to 2018 when, at the City’s request, the Sacramento Zoo contracted to have an updated feasibility study done that would again examine the need and the potential for relocation and a reimagination of the Sacramento Zoo people have known and loved for generations.

The future of the Sacramento Zoo is predicated on obtaining a site large enough to accommodate 21st -Century standards for animal welfare and conservation, meeting the expectations of today’s visitors and of course, providing access to adequate parking. Among other things, such a site will allow for the return of some of the iconic animal species that the zoo has had to say farewell to over the years as these animal welfare standards have evolved. These key species, and providing space to accommodate their needs, is paramount to the Sacramento Zoo’s ability to fulfill its mission, realize its vision and become a premier destination for tourists, as well as a source of pride for local residents.

Your support is vital! Here’s how you can help.

  1. Write and send a letter to your councilmember stating your support for a new zoo (please copy Mayor Steinberg).
  2. Encourage your friends, family (including children), neighbors and others to write similar letters. 
  3. If you live outside of the Sacramento City limits, please address and send your letter to Mayor Steinberg.

A new, modern and expanded site for the Sacramento Zoo will have so many benefits, including:

  • Continued Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) accreditation
  • Return of iconic species, as well as the introduction of many new species to Sacramento (including hippos, big cats, bears and others)
  • Enhanced animal care and management
  • Improved and expanded visitor experiences
  • Enhanced stature as a source of pride in the community and the potential to become a major tourist destination
  • Higher sustainable annual attendance
  • Increased earned revenues
  • Significant impact on the local and regional economy through jobs, capital investment and tourism
  • Enhanced ability to promote and exemplify the zoo’s core mission of education and conservation

It is important that your letters to the Mayor and Council be in your own words, speaking about your personal passion for the zoo and its future. We have also included a link that will help you determine which Council district you reside in if you are uncertain.

Thank you for your support and thank you for helping your Sacramento Zoo to move forward with a giant leap toward our next 92 years and beyond. We have included some information below to help make supporting our cause as simple and straight-forward as possible.

If you have any questions, please reach out to Lesley Kirrene at 916-808-5150 or

Thank you for your support, your passion for the Sacramento Zoo and for your help in shaping the zoo’s future.

Proposed African forest habitat rendering

Hippo Exhibit Rendering

Proposed Kids Nature Adventure Zone Rendering

Things to think about/discuss in your letter:

  1. What is your history/relationship with the Sacramento Zoo?
  2. What do you envision at a new, expanded zoo?
  3. Why is a new, expanded zoo important to you?
  4. What would this new zoo mean to:
    1. You
    2. The region’s children (for generations to come)
    3. The animals that call the zoo home
    4. Conservation of species (both at the zoo and in the wild)
    5. The greater Sacramento region (as a destination city)
  5. Why should members of the Sacramento City Council support the relocation and development of a new, larger, state-of-the-art Sacramento Zoo?

How do I write a letter to the Mayor and City Council?

  1. Dear Mayor Steinberg or Dear Councilmember (insert last name)
  2. Introduce yourself in the first paragraph. Include your address and let the Councilmember know that you reside in his/her district (if applicable).
  3. In your own words, tell him/her how you feel about the zoo, its role and its future.
  4. Describe the issue(s) of your concern and the reasons the zoo needs to relocate/expand.
  5. Ask the Mayor or your Councilmember to support the zoo’s relocation and expansion.
  6. Thank him/her.
  7. Sign the letter.
  8. Email or mail letters to both your Councilmember’s and Mayor’s attention.
Wild Populations bar graph
Remaining individuals in the wild. Conservation is a priority of the Sacramento Zoo.

Things to consider if the zoo does not move/expand:

  1. Sacramento Zoo is one of the country’s smallest accredited zoos located within a major city
  2. The zoo’s size severely limits our long-term viability and ability to provide appropriate care for many species in need of conservation, including many of the keynote species visitors expect and want to see in a zoo
  3. Continuing to operate in our current location, we will have no reasonable choice but to become a niche zoo with less variety of smaller animals
  4. Our future would be admittedly uncertain and would likely result in a small, niche zoo
  5. This means we would be a smaller zoo caring for a smaller number of animals and losing key species including giraffe, great apes, big cats and others
  6. Animals would continue to move out to other, larger AZA-accredited zoos due to evolving animal welfare and habitat standards
  7. Significant investment in our current location would result in a greater guest experience and quality of animal care and exhibits, but the zoo would not be able to bring back large species such as gorillas, tigers, hippos and others that require large, complex habitats and social groups

Education Center Rendering Snippet


Zoo Facts for Letter Inspiration:

Kids Nature Center Rendering

  • Mission of the Sacramento Zoo: to inspire appreciation respect and a connection with wildlife and nature through education, recreation and conservation
  • Sacramento Zoo has been welcoming and educating visitors since 1927 (that’s 92 years)
    • Zoo’s 100th anniversary will be in 2027
  • Highest attended paid amenity in the Sacramento region with an average of 500,000 visitors annually
    1. An average of 50,000 school children visit the zoo annually with zoo-sponsored school programs
    2. This attendance has reached its maximum annual capacity due to size of zoo and lack of parking
  • The Sacramento Zoo is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. The zoo has been operated by the nonprofit Sacramento Zoological Society since 1997
  • Accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) for more than 40 years
    1. Future AZA accreditation is uncertain without significant zoo remodel/renovation and/or relocation
    2. May be forced to become a niche zoo with smaller animals without additional space/relocation
    3. As pointed out in the most recent (2018) AZA accreditation report, the Sacramento Zoo must continue to evolve and invest in its animal care and exhibits to maintain accreditation
  • Animal care standards are evolving (as they should) and the zoo must be able to evolve and grown with those standards. In order to do this, the zoo, must either expand in its current location or relocate to a larger parcel that will enable considerable expansion
  • The zoo and the city have been looking at the need for relocation/expansion since the 1980s with additional studies done in 1997, 2010 and 2018
  • As a growing and evolving capital city, Sacramento needs and deserves a destination zoo
  • Sacramento is becoming a destination city. A new, expanded Sacramento Zoo would help to make this region a multi-day tourist destination
  • AZA-accredited zoo facts and figures:195,000,000 people visited the 230 AZA accredited zoos in 2018
    1. That’s more visitors than NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLB annual attendance combined
    2. Accredited zoos and aquariums contributed more than $22.5 billion to U.S. economy in 2016
    3. 50 million children visitors with families (annually)
    4. 12 million student learners on field trips (annually)
  • 400,000 teachers trained in informal science education methods over the last decade in AZA accredited zoos
  • Wildlife is increasingly at risk of extinction; the number of endangered species has more than doubled over the past two decades. The role of zoos has evolved as the urgency to protect and save species from extinction has increased.
  • The Sacramento Zoo has contributed more than $1 million directly to conservation initiatives locally and globally over the past decade
  • AZA zoos and conservation:Zoo safari rendering crop
    1. Accredited zoos spend $220 million annually to support conservation projects worldwide in 2018
    2. Conservation is a priority for AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums and is a key component of their missions
  • Whether saving species on the brink of extinction or ensuring species never reach such a precarious state, visitors can trust that AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums are working hard to protect wildlife and wild habitat for future generations to enjoy
  • Due to the size and aged infrastructure of Sacramento’s nearly century-old facility, and changing AZA requirements for habitat size, the Sacramento Zoo has faced hard decisions with regard to housing a number of important and iconic animals in recent years — including hippopotamus, tiger, bear, gorilla, rhino and others. The zoo will continue to face these decisions as accreditation standards are raised, forcing the zoo to further decrease its animal population
  • The Sacramento Zoo’s animal care team (in conjunction with veterinarians from UC Davis – the world’s #1 veterinary school) provides exceptional care to each of the zoo’s nearly 500 animals
  • Sacramento is the capital city of California. Within the past decade, communities such as Fresno and Oakland have invested in their zoos with great success. The new Sacramento Zoo needs to remain a relevant conservation-based mission organization as well as a premier destination attraction to ensure the same success
  • Most zoo experts would agree that a minimum of 100 acres are required for building a new zoo in an urban environment. More land allows for more exciting and immersive exhibits and larger iconic species such as rhinos, giraffe, gorillas, lion, tigers and hippos. Other benefits of a larger site include improved parking and public access, as well as more space for nighttime holding facilities, behind-the-scenes education, research and veterinary facilities


For more information on the zoo’s plans to expand and relocate, read more here.