by Pam Zubeck
“We’ve been dedicated to saving black-footed ferrets since 1990 and Wyoming toads since 2004, so it was difficult to comprehend what setbacks we’d face by not having a dedicated place for them,” said Bob Chastain, president and CEO of Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. “The old building is unsalvageable, due to the current damage. We knew we had to build a new conservation center, but we are in the early phases of a separate capital campaign for new hippo and penguin exhibits. We weren’t sure if we’d be able to secure enough funds for both projects.”
Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, and one of only ten accredited zoos in the country that does not receive a dime of tax support. The Zoo relies on donations, memberships and admission fees to care for over 950 animals and to fund their conservation and breeding programs. Like many nonprofits, unforeseeable challenges arose in 2015 for the Zoo and the future of 2016 is uncertain, but with the communities’ assistance, the new year looks very promising.
“I know a lot of nonprofits have been in bleak situations,” Chastain said. “The great thing about our community is, when your back’s against the wall, generous individuals step up and show their support. That’s what’s happened here – we’ve received a pledge for $1 million, specifically earmarked to save our important conservation programs. The family pledging is extremely passionate about conservation. They want to highlight our Zoo’s conservation work, rather than promoting themselves, so they wish to be unnamed at this time. This donation will be their family’s legacy and is the largest donation of their lifetime. The funds will afford us the opportunity to start the design and construction of a brand-new conservation center, which in turn secures the future of our breeding and release programs.”
The generous donation also ensures that the Zoo can continue their legacy of saving species and educating the public on the importance of protecting wildlife and wild places. The Zoo is currently in the design phase to determine the best location for the conservation center. Unlike the previous building, the center will be in an area of the Zoo that the public will have access to. The center will not only house black-footed ferrets and Wyoming toads, but will also highlight the Zoo’s work with amphibians in Panama. The Zoo plans on celebrating the conservation center’s grand opening no later than 2020.
The Zoo is grateful for the continued support of the community and for the generous gifts from donors that have been an integral component of other Zoo improvements.
“Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is a community treasure because it has the community’s support,” Chastain said. “This extraordinarily generous donation truly exemplifies the kinds of people that call Colorado Springs home.”