The family-fun gem of the metro area, the Saint Louis Zoo, is about to get even better.
In December 2020, the beloved institution announced more details about plans for its 425-acre north St. Louis County campus, including the introduction of two exciting projects that will offer unique visitor experiences and world-class conservation efforts.
First unveiled during the press conference was the name Saint Louis Zoo WildCare Park. Set to debut as early as 2026, this visitor attraction promises a totally unique safari-like experience for guests to get up close and personal with some of the world’s most magnificent animals.
“We decided on the Saint Louis Zoo WildCare Park [name] because it hits on three different aspects that are important to us,” said Jeffrey Bonner, Dana Brown President and CEO of the Saint Louis Zoo, during the press conference. “Wildlife, obviously, is part of that ‘WildCare’ name. Conservation – the preservation of the land, the air, the water, the plants and the animals that live on our earth. And of course, a dynamic public experience.”
The new park will be open to visitors and feature an outdoor adventure where people can embark on an expedition throughout the complex while animals roam freely in natural habitats. Other features in it will include hiking trails and voyages into the towering forest canopy, plus additional amenities still in the works.
The result? A sprawling, indoor-outdoor experience unlike anything in the metro area.
“Imagine, if you can, coming upon a herd of giraffe walking across the grasslands or rhinos surrounding your vehicle,” stated Bonner in a press release issued by the zoo. “Visitors might find themselves silently kayaking up to unwary zebra or disembarking the safari truck for a truly close-up experience.”
The second component announced by the zoo is the Kent Family Conservation and Animal Science Center. The new institution will be located at the WildCare Park and serve as a complement to the visitor component of the experience. Its mission will be dedicated to sustaining endangered species’ populations, conducting research and engaging in conservation programs.
“Together, the public experience and the Kent Family Conservation and Animal Science Center will merge applied science with intriguing dynamic visitor interactions – both are cutting-edge and unique,” stated Winthrop B. Reed, chairman of the St. Louis Zoological Park Subdistrict Commission, in the press release.
Fittingly, the eponymous center is made possible thanks to a leadership gift from the St. Louis-based Kent Family Foundation, a longtime supporter of the zoo.
“The Saint Louis Zoo is already one of the leaders in the world in conservation,” said Jerry Kent, a local entrepreneur and a trustee of the Kent Family Foundation, during the press conference. “My family is proud to partner with the zoo’s outstanding leadership team to create a center that will make the zoo second to none in conservation and research to stem the growing list of threatened animals.”
Along with funding conservation efforts, the zoo also announced it would strive to study the native plants and animals in and around the WildCare Park property. This process includes conducting biodiversity studies to better understand the types of wildlife in the park, as well as possible invasive species and diseases related to the environment that could impact zoo animals.
The goal behind these efforts is simple: Create the best, safest habitat for future inhabitants of the WildCare Park.
“The knowledge gained from these biodiversity studies is essential to help make the best decisions about future property,” said Jo-Elle Mogerman, director of the Saint Louis Zoo WildCare Park, during the press conference. “This property is home to a variety of native wildlife. And even in our plans, we want to ensure that that wildlife can thrive and persist.”
Although the park and conservation center remain a half decade away from opening, the new visitor experience, from concept to execution, will clearly only further cement the Saint Louis Zoo’s longtime reputation as one of the city’s crown jewels.
Saint Louis Zoo, 1 Government Drive, St. Louis, 314-781-0900, stlzoo.org