Home / Blog / Zoo Update with CEO and Director Denise M. Verret – December 2023

Zoo Update with CEO and Director Denise M. Verret – December 2023

A Speke’s gazelle, with its fine legs, light fur, and delicate horns, appears to laugh at the camera.
Even in December, the Speke’s gazelle’s semi-desert home is hot and dry. Its white belly helps deflect heat rising from the desert sand.

As we enter the holiday season, I am hopeful that we can all find joy and give thanks for family, friends, life, and health. The holiday season also reminds me of another year gone by and the opportunity for reflection as we both look back at our progress and impact, as well as renew our spirit and prepare for a brand new year to come, bringing with it opportunities for continued growth. And, if it’s the holiday season, that means the Zoo has been undergoing a noticeable transition in preparation for one of the most anticipated events of the year–the return of L.A. Zoo Lights: Animals Aglow! It’s hard to believe that this is the ninth year of this spectacular nighttime event, but it has become a beloved tradition for our members and all of our communities that started as a dream of our former beloved Councilmember Tom LaBonge.

The 2023 iteration of L.A. Zoo Lights includes more than a mile of pathways that feature over 3,000 lanterns illuminated with ultra-low-energy LED lights. Wildlife scenes include flora and fauna from the Zoo and around the world and represent the planet’s biodiversity we are working so hard to protect. Additionally, we took your feedback to heart and have added an entire section themed around winter that includes immersive and interactive displays that will have everyone ready for this holiday season.

This is also the time of year when we welcome a new cohort of teens participating in the Zoo’s Teen Council for Conservation. This amazing program engages a diverse group of teenagers from all over Los Angeles in conservation projects in their own neighborhoods. It creates pathways toward a future centered on conservation solutions in Los Angeles and provides young people opportunities to build leadership skills and enact change in themselves, at the Zoo, and in their communities. I am anticipating wonderful new projects developed by the teens and extend my sincerest congratulations to this year’s group.

Last, but certainly not least, we are closing out the year with a significant milestone in support of our role in the California Condor Recovery Program. As we shared last month, the Zoo played a role in vaccinating condors in our care against HPAI. Just this month, the first fully vaccinated birds, hatched and reared at the L.A. Zoo, were released into the wild in Northern California by our partners at the Yurok Tribe Wildlife Department.

I’m immensely proud of the work that our teams are doing every day as a force for good in our community and in the world, creating a just and sustainable world where people and wildlife thrive, together. Being a part of something with a vital purpose of saving wildlife, enriching our communities, and creating connections to nature is extremely gratifying, and I am especially thankful for the support we receive from our members.

I am wishing you a joyous holiday season, and I can’t wait for you to see what’s in store in the new year.

Denise M. Verret, Zoo Director and CEO