Home / Blog / Zoo Update from GLAZA President Tom Jacobson – September 2023

Zoo Update from GLAZA President Tom Jacobson – September 2023

A close up, young gorilla looks shyly at the camera
At three years old, Angela the western lowland gorilla is the subject of a new children’s book. Photo by Jamie Pham

Your Zoo is evolving!  

When you visit the Zoo this fall, you’ll notice one or more construction sites, a tantalizing hint of changes to come. These construction projects are supported by some of our most important funders, including the State of California.

Already under construction is a new habitat for Cape vultures, a species that hasn’t been on view to the L.A. public for quite some time. Thanks to the generosity of the Fritz B. Burns Foundation, our Cape vultures will soon have a beautiful state-of-the-art habitat created by renovating an existing closed exhibit in the Africa area of the Zoo. Cape vultures have been historically classified as Endangered on the IUCN Red List but were downlisted to Vulnerable in 2021. The new habitat will feature a large nesting wall, an exhibit pool and perching, a patron viewing structure and ADA access. 

The swan pond renovation will transform this habitat with new landscaping and repaired water features like the pond and waterfall. Located across from the flamingos, the swan pond is in one of the busiest areas of the Zoo, so we’re especially grateful to the Al Lowy family, Alan G. Lowy, Barbara A. Wenger, Luanne C. Wells, and the Witherbee Foundation for their generosity to the project. The trumpeter swan is the heaviest living bird native to North America. The Zoo is home to a reproductive pair that will live in this renovated habitat with the hope that we will be able to release some of the offspring (cygnets) in the Alaskan wild to sustain the population. 

As we prepare to implement the Vision Plan that will transform the Zoo, we’ve commissioned an Accessible and Inclusive Restroom Study to develop design guidelines that take into consideration ALL people—of different ages, genders, religions, and abilities. The development of a viable economical restroom prototype for new construction projects will inform all restroom development throughout the Zoo for the Vision Plan.

Although the Zoo has many gathering spaces, none can accommodate more than 300 guests at a time. Many of our events, including the Beastly Ball, host 1,000 people or more, so GLAZA and the Zoo are developing a beautiful and highly functional, park-like space that can accommodate multiple uses and diverse audiences. The results of this ambitious design challenge were plans for the new 1.72-acre Angela Collier Garden. This extraordinary, renewed space will provide a hub for education, community-building, and biodiversity awareness while also enabling us achieve growth in catering sales and paid admissions that translate into greater funding for the Zoo’s operations. When completed, the Angela Collier Garden’s state-of-the-art design elements, including drought-tolerant native California plants and recycled irrigation, will enhance the L.A. Zoo’s appeal to families and visitors as the city’s unique setting for a wider range of programs, events, and activities. We are most grateful to the Angela Collier Foundation and our other leading philanthropic partners for making this wonderful new visitor amenity possible.

All four of these construction projects received funding from the State of California, a first in the history of the Zoo. This public/private support is a terrific model for future construction within the Vision Plan. All of us at the Zoo and GLAZA are grateful to State Senator Anthony Portantino for requesting the budget allocation of $2,210,000 on our behalf.

We apologize in advance for any inconvenience you might experience due to construction, but we hope you’ll be as excited about these new projects as we are!

Tom Jacobson, GLAZA President Photo by Jamie Pham