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Zoo Update with Denise Verret, Zoo Director and CEO – August 2021

Denise M. Verret, Zoo Director and CEO Photo by Jamie Pham

Creating a Just and Sustainable World Where People and Wildlife Thrive, Together

The Los Angeles Zoo reached a historic milestone in July with the launch of our first-ever Conservation Strategic Plan (CSP), which expands our impact here in Los Angeles and around the world. While we have a storied record of success in conservation, the challenges we face are growing and it is important now more than ever that we take actions that save the world around us—together.

Last year, we saw a drastic change during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. We witnessed a revitalization of nature. Wild animals reemerged. Our air, skies, and rivers became clearer. Nature experienced a renaissance as people limited their interactions during lockdown. A stark contrast to this renewal was the public outcry from our community on inequality. Over the summer of 2020, millions of Angelenos and people around the world stood up and spoke out against the racism and injustices our society faces every day. It became evident that we are experiencing two urgent threats—the highest mass extinction of biodiversity we’ve seen and deep-seated inequities happening in our local and wider communities. These two threats needed a comprehensive response because they are interconnected; under-resourced communities frequently bear a disproportionate impact from environmental damage and are often unequally represented in conservation strategies. We are facing challenges that impact all of us. That is where this Plan and YOU come into play.

Through the support of the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association (GLAZA), the leadership of the GLAZA Board of Trustees, and the generosity of many donors, this CSP engages Los Angeles, our communities, and its resources to achieve our collective goals and objectives. It reflects a bold and intentional endeavor, encompassing a broad range of activities and programs that the Zoo will undertake. It is because of the Zoo’s vital expertise and resources that species such as the remarkable California condor, local southern mountain yellow-legged frog, or the berrendo of Baja California exist today. By expanding our focus to include human-centric issues such as justice and equity, we can confront one of our major conservation challenges, which allows these communities to share in positive outcomes of our initiatives with pride, passion, and purpose.

I look forward to working with all of you as we renew our efforts to have a collective impact on the conservation of species and creating a just world where people and wildlife thrive together. I encourage you to read the CSP and see the Keynote, as well as view Dr. Jake Owens on Channel 35’s L.A. Currents discussing the Plan in-depth. We can do more. We must do more. Join us!