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Zoo Update from Director and CEO Denise M. Verret – June 2022

Denise Verret, center, with travel group and guides in Botswana’s Makgadikgadi Pans National Park.

Earlier this year, I had the privilege of traveling to Africa for the very first time in my life. The purpose of this trip was to prepare and inform me of the full journey I am going to co-lead in Botswana and Namibia later in the fall as part of the Zoo’s travel program, but what happened was far more incredible than anything I could have imagined. Yes, I learned the basics of the safari tour I’ll be going on in October, but I gained so much more clarity into the deep connection of humans and wildlife to their larger ecosystem. This trip truly changed my life.

From the lush marshlands, savannah, and bush to the white expanse of ancient salt pans, this journey included some of the most amazing parks and reserves in all of Africa. I had the chance to observe co-existence between species like never before. Elephants, zebras, giraffes, antelopes, and wildebeest all roamed together at the Makgadikgadi Pans. The Okavango Delta supported a wide array of wildlife with its flood plains, islands, lagoons, and deep-water channels. In Chobe National Park, I had the chance to see birds, great herds of elephants and buffalo, and hippos, crocodiles, giraffes, and zebras—all sharing the lush vegetation and floodplains of the Chobe River to sustain their lives. And the Moremi Game Reserve had the most diverse set of species I have seen in terms of wildlife; over 400 species of birds make their homes there.

Not only did I leave this trip as a birder, I also left this trip with new insight to the plight of wildlife. Seeing all of these remarkable species up close, some critically endangered, doubled down my firm belief in the work that we are doing today and every day at the Los Angeles Zoo to protect wildlife and wild places. This trip to Africa was an extreme privilege, and that was not lost on me. Not all Angelenos will ever have the opportunity to travel to Africa and experience wildlife as I did, but that doesn’t mean that they should be deprived of seeing these same animals up close. The Los Angeles Zoo is a vital community resource that creates connections to animals every day, contributing to the future of our planet Earth and ensuring that it is a place where people and wildlife thrive, together.

I am excited to return to Africa in October where GLAZA President Tom Jacobson and I will join guests on a 13-day trip to some of the finest wildlife viewing areas. During this trip, guests will experience thrilling wildlife encounters, beautiful culture, exceptional cuisine, and distinct accommodations in one of the world’s most intriguing destinations. This trip will also allow the Zoo to amplify its role and the contributions that we are making to protect wildlife. Registration is still open, and I hope you will join us.

Denise Verret and Tom Jacobson will accompany the group with a minimum of 15 travelers on the main and 15 travelers on both the pre- and post-extensions program.