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Encouraging active nature and species conservation

Through its diverse, 26-strong board of trus­tees, the Zoo Zurich Foun­da­tion is able to draw on a large network to support the zoo and its projects.

First the number 5 tram all the way up to the turning circle at the top of the ‘Züri­berg’, then a 200–300 metre walk, past the ceme­tery with its famous literary and thea­tri­cal occup­ants, through the turn­stile and suddenly there they are – pengu­ins and flamin­gos. I have left the constant drone of the hectic city far behind and find myself in a calm and comple­tely diffe­rent world. You may reco­gnise the feeling.

The zoo has been a constant in the lives of many Zurich nati­ves. It was opened on 7 Septem­ber 1929 by the then-mayor Emil Klöti. In the course of its 92-year existence, it has grown into an impres­sive medium-sized enter­prise with a reve­nue of 63 million francs and 256 full-time staff. Along­side its employees, the zoo manage­ment is also able to call on a team of over 300 volun­te­ers, who provide an average of 30,000 hours of volun­tary work over the course of a year. The team has been helping out for 20 years and at busy times – typi­cally Wednes­day after­noon and weekends – it would be impos­si­ble to imagine the zoo without them. Thomas E. Kern, chair of the Zoo Zurich Foun­da­tion points out, ‘As well as stimu­la­ting the economy, Zoo Zurich plays an important cultu­ral role. Our high-quality cultu­ral programme enhan­ces the local quality of life and the attrac­ti­ve­ness of Zurich as a location.’ 

Zoo Zurich Foun­da­tion since 1999

The Zoo Zurich Foun­da­tion is a chari­ta­ble orga­ni­sa­tion, set up in 1999 to support Zoo Zurich in its fund­rai­sing. Thomas E. Kern empha­si­ses, ‘The foun­da­tion board ensu­res that dona­ti­ons are earmar­ked and used in Zoo Zurich’s inte­rest.’ All funds, whether recei­ved directly by Zoo Zurich or via the foun­da­tion, go towards the same expan­sion projects. The foun­da­tion does not play an opera­tio­nal role. Its sole focus as the Zoo Zurich Foun­da­tion is the deve­lo­p­ment of Zoo Zurich. Criti­cism of the zoo is mini­mal. ‘That probably has to do with the ongo­ing impro­ve­ment of our faci­li­ties and our spacious enclo­sures,’ Thomas E. Kern main­tains, conti­nuing, ‘The well­being of our animals is at the heart of our acti­vi­ties and the majo­rity of visi­tors reco­gnise that. We invest in buil­ding and reno­vat­ing animal enclo­sures and actively inform the public about our construc­tion plans. And obser­va­tions from visi­tors are taken very seriously.’

Foun­da­tion board member by appointment

The Zoo’s foun­da­tion board of trus­tees is hand-picked. Thomas E. Kern is keen to point out, ‘Today’s foun­da­tion boards are no longer put toge­ther along old-boy network lines.’ The Zoo Zurich Foun­da­tion has a large board, made up of 26 indi­vi­du­als. ‘They are all ambassa­dors of the zoo and bring with them a broad – private or profes­sio­nal – network of people keen to donate,’ explains the chair of the foun­da­tion board. 

Thomas E. Kern has been a board member of the Zoo Zurich Foun­da­tion since 2006 and its chair since 2014. His previous roles include CEO of the Globus Group and CEO of Flug­ha­fen Zürich AG.

The Zoo as a centre for nature and species conservation

Accord­ing to foun­da­tion chair Thomas E. Kern, Zoo Zurich has deve­lo­ped over the years into the largest and most visi­ted cultu­ral and educa­tio­nal insti­tu­tion in Switz­er­land. By provi­ding infor­ma­tion and a diverse range of expe­ri­en­ces, the zoo aims to inspire visi­tors to support nature and species conser­va­tion. The credo: ‘People who know animals will protect them.’ ‘Through our animals, conser­va­tion exhi­bi­ti­ons, guided tours and animal presen­ta­ti­ons, we reach an audi­ence of between 1.2 and 1.4 million people,’ reports Thomas E. Kern. Spot­ting the animals and expe­ri­en­cing them live are of primary import­ance. In addi­tion, Zoo Zurich uses the whole range of modern commu­ni­ca­tion tools, inclu­ding Face­book, Insta­gram and Twit­ter, to remain in touch with the commu­nity before and after a zoo visit. 

Masoala Natio­nal Park in Madagascar

One of the eight nature and species conser­va­tion projects Zoo Zurich supports is Masoala Natio­nal Park in Mada­gas­car. It recei­ves at least 125,000 US dollars a year. The money goes to the park’s sustaina­bi­lity fund. Further projects are carried out in close coope­ra­tion with Masoala Natio­nal Park and the Wild­life Conser­va­tion Society WCS, ranging from refo­re­sta­tion and the intro­duc­tion of rege­ne­ra­tive, sustainable agri­cul­ture to educa­tio­nal projects for child­ren. Their aim is to offer the popu­la­tion of Mada­gas­car profi­ta­ble alter­na­ti­ves to the slash-and-burn farming that is destroy­ing the rain­fo­rest. Since this long and sustainable colla­bo­ra­tion began back in 1995, over 6 million francs have poured into the project, and over 40,000 people have bene­fi­ted as a result.

Exten­ding a warm welcome to bats

On a local scale, Zoo Zurich is commit­ted to the protec­tion of bats. In 1998, Zoo Zurich welco­med the Swiss Bat Protec­tion Foun­da­tion to set up base at the zoo. From here, the Swiss Bat Protec­tion Foun­da­tion is able to run its infor­ma­tion and educa­tion acti­vi­ties and fulfil its role as the Swiss coor­di­na­tion centre for bat protec­tion. Zoo Zurich opera­tes an emer­gency bat clinic in Zoolino in part­nership with animal protec­tion orga­ni­sa­tion Zürcher Tier­schutz and the Swiss Bat Protec­tion Foun­da­tion. It is right next-door to the Swiss Bat Protec­tion Foundation’s infor­ma­tion and educa­tion centre ‘Bat World’, where six themed rooms take visi­tors on an inter­ac­tive jour­ney of exploration.

Plan­ning for the next 30 years

The foun­da­tion board’s work never ends. Thomas E. Kern points out, ‘A zoo comple­tely revamps itself every 30 to 50 years. We are curr­ently working on our expan­sion and upgrade plan for the next 30 years. The aim is to present it to the public in Septem­ber 2021.’ The plans include a large aviary and a new home for goril­las and oran­gutans. As ever, these expan­sion projects are to be funded with dona­ti­ons from private indi­vi­du­als and foun­da­ti­ons. Initial infor­ma­tion can be found on the home page.

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