Who We Are | The Topeka Zoo

Who We Are

Today our mission is to enrich the community through wildlife conservation and education.  And when you are a cause based organization, you have to be able to interact with people.

Every year we see a lot of people here at the Topeka Zoo.   The Census Bureau estimates that are metropolitan service area consists of about 234,000 people.   In 2016, our annual attendance was just over 203,000.  That translates to a market saturation rate of 86%.  As impressive as those numbers are, you may be asking yourself who actually uses the zoo? Zoos are places for kids, right? This statistic might surprise you. Last year, 49% of the people that came to the zoo were adults.   We see a lot of parents and grandparents that make up our user base. Our typical users also include senior centers who want to share special experiences with their residents.  It also includes school groups and corporations who use our facility for both meeting spaces and places to celebrate their workforce.

We are not one of the biggest zoos in the country. Nor, do we want to be. Our size is embraceable. Our size is an advantage.  It’s easy for a mother to push a stroller through our zoo. It’s easy for grandparents to take their grandchildren to our zoo.

Our job is to inspire the people we interact with.  We want to build meaningful connections between our guests and wildlife and the wild places the animals represent.  The bigger the inspiration, the stronger the connection and the more likely a person will be to become a better steward for our natural world.

One of our goals is to create positive long lasting memories in our guests.  We do this because we know that the stronger the memory the more likely they will be to make choices that will benefit the wildlife we serve.  It might be a simple choice to purchase an animal friendly product.  It might be a life changing choice that influences their education and work plans.

Today, our animal care programs focus on wellness.  They are programs that the animals participate in to help us monitor and improve their health and quality of life.  We can conduct a complete cardiac ultrasound procedure on a fully awake gorilla.  We get voluntary blood samples from elephants, bears, tigers and lions.  Our program for managing geriatric elephants is among the best in North America.  Our staff never set out to be better than any other zoo.  Their goal was and is to provide the best care possible for the animals that live here.  We will continue to help pioneer this approach to animal care.

AZA accreditation means we focus our mission on two key concepts.  One of which is Education.  We conduct passive, informal and formal education.  Our education programs occur at our zoos, at schools and other venues like libraries and retirement centers.  In 2016, over 20,000 people participated in our formal education programs.

The other component is conservation.  Our conservation efforts are local, regional and international. We lead the charge of the Kansas accredited zoos in monarch butterfly conservation. It was through monarch butterfly conservation that we introduced our community to citizen science. Nationally we are part of the black footed ferret reintroduction program. When we started working with this program in 2007 the black footed ferret was the most endangered mammal species in North America. Thanks in part to our efforts, it is making a recovery.

And we support conservation around the world. Whether it’s elephants, African painted dogs, or tigers in Southeast Asia, our community is making positive impacts on wildlife a half a world away. Patrons of Blind Tiger who drink Tiger Bite IPA are helping to fund the salary for this Ranger who is on the ground in Sumatra working daily to prevent the illegal killing of Sumatran tigers. While at the same time, here at home we breed Sumatran Tigers.  For the endangered species we work with at our zoo, our goal is to collaborate with partners to be able to manage enough genetic diversity to manage a population under human care for 100 years.  Then, during that 100 year time frame, we try to fix problems in the range territories of these endangered species.   Once the problems are fixed, we focus on reintroduction back to the wild..

We are greatly woven into the fabric of the quality of life in our community.  Since the Lions Pride exhibit was built in 1989 – the last exhibit of the World Famous Topeka Zoo era – over 5 and a half million people have come to our zoo.  Today, we have over 5300 household memberships that represent more than 20,000 individual members.  Zoo attendance accounts for 30% of the attendance to Arts and Culture events.