Creating Meaningful Connections Between People and Animals
In 2016, almost a quarter-million people filed through the entrance to the Chattanooga Zoo. In addition, more than 43,000 local students increased their knowledge of our natural world through the Zoo’s formal and informal education programs. Equally important, almost 1,000 animals received treatment and care through the facility’s Wildlife Rehabilitation Program. During those twelve months, the Zoo’s dedicated staff witnessed 18 significant births of animals at what has become one of Chattanooga’s most popular tourist attractions.
The only zoo within a 90-mile radius, the Chattanooga Zoo sits on 14.5 acres and is commonly known as the “Best Little Zoo in America.” As an Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) accredited institution, the Chattanooga Zoo is held to the highest of standards in animal management and care, education, conservation, and visitor services. An award-winning attraction, the Chattanooga Zoo has been hailed in 2015 as the “Best Zoo in Tennessee” by Yahoo. With its intimate, innovative exhibits, wide-ranging educational offerings, and commitment to conservation, the Chattanooga Zoo’s vision is to be a top destination for residents and visitors alike and the pride of the region. The mission of the Chattanooga Zoo is to engage and inspire the community to better understand and preserve wildlife by creating meaningful connections between people and animals. The Zoo accomplishes its mission by providing innovative behind-the-scenes offerings for visitors and a variety of unique and engaging education programs.
Engaging & Inspiring the Community
The Chattanooga Zoo has a multitude of exciting offerings for visitors. The Zoo is one of the best family values in the city, with low prices and open doors from nine to five almost every day. Each day, the Zoo offers “Keeper Chats,” a program that allows visitors to meet the keepers who take care of their favorite animals and learn what goes into their care. If visitors attend the Chimpanzee Keeper Chat, they will even get to witness chimpanzee training up close – all free with the cost of admission. Additionally, visitors have the option to upgrade their admission with a guided Zoo Tour which allows visitors some behind the scenes knowledge of the Zoo’s animals. Visitors can also enjoy a ride on the Endangered Species carousel, the Zoo Choo Train, or even a camel. The low cost memberships at the Zoo grant even more visitor offerings for a low annual price.
For an even wilder time at the Zoo, visitors can book a WILD Encounter for a behind-the-scenes interaction with some of the Zoo’s most exotic animals. WILD Encounters gives visitors the opportunity to go into the animal’s enclosure, feed them yummy treats, and learn fun facts about the animals from their keepers. The Zoo currently offers WILD Encounters with red pandas, meerkats, fennec foxes, capybaras and spider monkeys, a two-toed sloth, and the kinkajous. By creating programs that allow visitors the closeness of entering exhibits, the Zoo is definitely creating connections between the visitor and the animals that will last a lifetime.
The Zoo offers a variety of fun and educational programs as well. The Zoo offers field trips for students at a reduced rate, a home school day twice a year, hosts education camps, and even has the opportunity for family and group overnights. The Zoo to You outreach program is very popular and allows Education staff to visit groups and bring the Zoo to them without ever having to leave their community. Zoo Camps, offered in the summer months, features games, activities, animal encounters, and even excursions into Chattanooga to connect the Zoo Campers with the animals and the Chattanooga community.
Beyond visitor and educational offerings, the Zoo operates many programs dedicated to animal care and conservation. The Zoo has continued to expand and develop over the years to its present status as an institution exhibiting more than 250 animals spread across almost 14 acres. Programs of the Zoo today include conservation initiatives ranging locally and globally. The Chattanooga Zoo currently participates in 28 individual AZA Species Survival Plans, partners with the Snow Leopard Trust to provide annual purchases such as much needed equipment for in-field researchers, works on-grounds and in-field in efforts to save the rapidly disappearing Hellbender salamander, and works with many individual conservation organizations to help ensure the survival of animals in the wild. Equally important, almost 1,000 animals receive treatment and care through the facility’s Wildlife Rehabilitation Program annually.
Partnering with Chattanooga to Educate & Inspire
As a community resource, the Chattanooga Zoo strives to partner with many different organizations to ensure it is engaging the entire community. Through various partnerships with other local nonprofit organizations, such as Big Brothers Big Sisters, Ronald McDonald House Charities, the Creative Discovery Museum, and Hope for the Inner City, the Zoo welcomes thousands of visitors yearly at no cost. Additionally, the Zoo partners with the City of Chattanooga’s Youth and Family Development Centers, private and public schools, universities, and community colleges to allow students to visit the Zoo for free or at a reduced rate.
The Zoo additionally partners with the City of Chattanooga’s Therapeutic Recreation Department to host multiple after-hours events for families with special needs. One of these events is known as Dreamnight and offers behind-the-scenes tours, up-close animal encounters, bounce houses, face painting, food, and more. Dreamnight is held after-hours in acknowledgement of the unique circumstances that generally limit outings for these families during normal operating hours. The Chattanooga Zoo is proud to be an accessible zoo so that the entire community is able and welcome to visit and view the offerings of the Zoo.