The Fort Worth Zoo was recently named the fourth best zoo in the country by USA Today.
The public played a pivotal role in the overall rankings. They were asked to vote from a list of the top 20 zoos. The Fort Worth Zoo was the only zoo from Texas to place in the top 10.
“We really had a chance to communicate with our guests and visitors about some of their favorite parts of the zoo and get them involved in the campaign,” said Public Relations Coordinator Chelsea Adler.
Kat Jones and Genesis Taylor, students in Dallas, were encouraged to visit the Fort Worth attraction by friends.
“They were just saying it’s really cool and big and had a wide variety of animals,” Jones said.
Taylor is originally from Fort Worth, but she now lives in Las Vegas. She never saw the zoo as a child and decided to visit once she returned to Texas.
“They said it was better than the zoo in Dallas,” Taylor said.
Adler said the Fort Worth Zoo stands out from other zoos because it takes part in conservation efforts.
Fort Worth Zoo biologists have been working to decrease the mortality rate of Anegada iguanas. The zoo invited two groups of college students to examine the iguanas and observe a camera tapping study to capture the iguanas’ behavioral information. Recently, the number of iguana births has increased.
The zoo is also working to reintroduce the critically endangered Puerto Rican crested toad into its habitat. It is the only native toad of Puerto Rico, where teachers and zoo officials traveled to search for toads and reintroduction sites. The staff set up an automated recording system to observe the toads at night.
The Fort Worth Zoo is involved in conservation work in more than 30 countries, which led to the establishment being recognized as an American Humane Certified producer by the American Humane Conservation program.
The zoo also takes part in anti-poaching efforts in Africa.
Executive Director Michael Fouraker once served as the president of the International Elephant Foundation. The zoo partners with the foundation to help support African and Asian elephants. The partnership researches, monitors and brings conservation awareness to communities.
One of the greatest success stories in conservation is Gus, the first gorilla born at the Fort Worth Zoo. The baby primate is a member of the endangered species western lowland gorilla.
“You’ll see he’s still a little gorilla just exploring his natural habitat,” Adler said. “But he also represents a big conservation success for the western lowland gorilla.”
Some guests said they believe the conservation efforts help the animals feel better.
“Our zoo feels more animal-centered, and the animals seem happy,” said weekly zoo visitor Lark Johnston. “It’s not just about watching people on display or animals on display; it’s about teaching our kids we watch them to learn about them.”
Fort Worth Zoo also takes pride in its many education programs, ranging from pre-school to summer and career camps, with participation from 100,000 students.
Many children enjoy trading and learning about fossils at the Texas Nature Traders building, where they can bring in artifacts to earn points and learn more about the environment.
“They learn about the wildlife and the local nature,” said frequent zoo visitor Robby Castetter. “It educates the kids while they’re young so they can help preserve when they’re older.”
Visit the zoo’s website to learn more about conservation efforts or enroll in an education program.