It takes $30,000 per day to operate the Birmingham Zoo, including $1,000 a day to feed the 550 animals from six continents.
From the African elephants to a yellow-banded poison dart frog, caring for the 180 species living on 122 acres is an expensive proposition. Fewer paid visitors during the pandemic hasn’t helped the situation, but a second annual virtual ZooRendezvous Sept. 9 is set to boost the Emergency Animal Fund.
Facing a projected $1.5 million loss of revenue by the end of 2021, leaders of the 66-year-old zoo are now looking to the fundraiser, as well as corporate and public tax-deductible donations, to continue providing care for the animals. The Birmingham Zoo is Alabama’s only accredited Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) facility and is ranked among the Top 3 tourist attractions in the state.
“I have so many wonderful memories with my two boys wandering around the zoo and talking about the animals,” said Alexia Borden, a board member and co-chair of the ZooRendezvous. “Unfortunately for me, their favorite part is always the reptile room.”
An exclusive “Roaring ’20s” in-person ticketed Watch Party that was a special part of the fundraiser has been canceled, but efforts continue with the free virtual ZooRendzvous on YouTube, an online auction and other means of bringing in funding for the nonprofit at https://www.birminghamzoo.com/event/zoorendezvous-2021/.
“The board made the decision to cancel the ZooRendezvous Watch Party because of the rise in COVID-19 cases,” said Borden, who is Alabama Power’s senior vice president and general counsel. “ZooRendezvous is the zoo’s main fundraiser, and any support people can give is appreciated.”
The Birmingham Zoo became a nonprofit organization at the turn of the century and launched its first major capital campaign in 2001. The $15 million Junior League of Birmingham-Hugh Kaul Children’s Zoo opened in 2005, devoted to urban, rural and wild animals from the environs of Alabama.
In 2011, the Trails of Africa opened to establish the zoo as a national leader in the care, breeding and conservation of threatened African elephants. The exhibit features the only all-male African elephant herd in the United States, as well as giraffes, duikers and rhinos in a unique experience for visitors.
In recent years, a new entrance has greeted guests, with a major expansion including a lawn, plaza, offices, rental spaces and learning center. Renovations to the predator building, projected to be completed soon, will highlight the Malayan tiger, Komodo dragon, Sumatran orangutans, red panda and Pallas’s cats.
First-time and frequent visitors alike can enjoy a train ride circling the zoo, as well as opportunities to feed giraffes and lorikeets, each for an additional fee. The gift shop has souvenirs, while snacks are available for purchase at the Wild Burger and Nourish 205 restaurants.
Regular hours are Wednesday through Sunday from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Tickets are $17.95 for adults, $12.95 for children ages 2-12 and admission is free for infants up to 2 years old.
“ZooRendezvous is a critical source of revenue for our zoo’s operations; our community will be instrumental in helping us reach our $450,000 goal by bidding on auction items and making donations on Sept. 9,” said Vice President of Development Leigh Laser Collins, who is in charge of the event.