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

Zoo visitors at the Beloved Pets Ofrenda Photo by Jamie Pham

This is my favorite time of the year–when the dog days of summer heat change to the shorter, cooler days of autumn. There is nothing quite like autumn in Los Angeles. It’s a great time to enjoy the outside and connect with wildlife and nature, and your Los Angeles Zoo is doing just that in a variety of ways.

In a heartwarming return to form since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Zoo has welcomed back school group visits. We’ve already received reservations for more than 14,000 students, teachers, and chaperones for this 2022 autumn season, which is spectacular. I am thrilled to see all of these bright, young minds return to their Zoo with a renewed sense of place, wonder, and learning.

Also this fall, the Zoo’s Learning & Engagement Division has brought back the Beloved Pets Ofrenda, co-created and co-designed with Plaza de la Raza Cultural Center for the Arts & Education in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month. For its second year and through Wednesday, November 2, the Beloved Pets Ofrenda honors the memory of cherished animal companions that have passed away, and all Zoo guests are welcome to print photos or draw their pets to place with mementos on the ofrenda, located at the Zoo’s Front Entry Plaza. This is an opportunity to not only build empathy for the animals in our lives but to also learn more about the rich Hispanic culture of Los Angeles.

This past month, the Zoo’s Conservation Committee partnered with the Department of Recreation and Parks to collaborate on the first of many restoration events in Griffith Park. Volunteers came together on October 1 at the Fern Dell West Trail near the Griffith Observatory to survey native habitat and wildlife, measure fauna, and remove a variety of invasive plants, including cocklebur and fennel. We are thrilled to help create space for native plants, and I look forward to seeing the impact of this partnership.

Finally, the Zoo’s Conservation Division has launched its first-ever Teen Council for Conservation. This nine-month program serves diverse Angelenos, highlighting their strengths as leaders, developing skills in conservation and community building, and empowering youth to enact change in themselves, at the Zoo, and in their communities. The Teen Council for Conservation focuses on issues surrounding conservation, social and environmental justice, and climate, and the specific focus will be determined by members each year. I am excited to see this program flourish and create pathways for future generations of Angelenos to consider conservation solutions for Los Angeles. More information on this program can be found at lazoo.org/teencouncil.

I am deeply heartened by the work the Zoo is doing in its greater community to co-create a just and sustainable world where people and wildlife thrive, together. Let us all look forward to the seeds of our labor sprouting into trees of hope and equitable environmental stewardship as we continue to make a difference for people and animals.

Denise Verret posing with the giraffes
Denise M. Verret, Zoo Director and CEO Photo by Jamie Pham