On July 19, 2022, the Saint Louis Zoo provided several updates and unveiled renderings of some of the animals and planned guest experiences at Saint Louis Zoo WildCare Park.
The development of WildCare Park is estimated to cost $230 million with funding coming from a variety of sources, including philanthropy, external financing proceeds in addition to existing and future Zoo and Saint Louis Zoo Association cash reserves.
With a target public opening slated for 2027, animals will begin arriving at WildCare Park in 2023 for a pilot pasture.
After careful evaluation and consideration of how to utilize all of the buildings on the property, demolition of a few older buildings was necessary as renovation was not feasible and was cost prohibitive. This demolition work is nearing completion. Additionally, fence installation and grading has begun around the perimeter of the property and will likely continue through the first couple of months of 2023.
Animals – Animals selected for WildCare Park are species that will thrive in Missouri’s variable seasonal climate, and will be all over the 425-acre property. The animals at the Kent Family Conservation and Animal Science Center are endangered and are at risk of extinction in the wild. The species selected for the safari areas are a mix of endangered and non-endangered species, although endangered species were given the highest priority during selection. Some of the species selected for WildCare Park are currently present at the Zoo, but many of the species at WildCare Park will be different than the Zoo to offer guests the opportunity to see a diversity of species across both campuses.
“Acquiring animals from other accredited facilities and building appropriate animal social groups takes time,” said Martha Fischer, General Curator at WildCare Park. “We’re planning to receive the first animals at WildCare Park next year and we’ll gradually increase the number of animals and species over time. For the public opening, we’re primarily focusing on endangered ungulates – hoofed mammals – as well as birds and other threatened species.”
The Kent Family Conservation and Animal Science Center – includes 61 acres of secluded conservation area with pastures and barns to maintain and grow populations of endangered ungulates (hoofed mammals). The Kent Family Conservation and Animal Science Center will be home to six or more endangered species living in large 5- to 10-acre single-species pastures. The initial species that will live in this area are Grevy’s zebra, addax, bongo, Przewalski’s horse, roan antelope and Somali wild ass. Initially, there will be five modular, utilitarian barns in this area with up to 12 interconnected pastures of varying sizes. “With the Kent Family Conservation and Animal Science Center, we are striving to support species recovery programs and population sustainability,” said Fischer. “This is where conservationists will work to sustain populations of endangered species, conduct research and engage in applied conservation programs. It is key to the Zoo’s work to advance wildlife conservation efforts.”
Guest Experiences – “At WildCare Park, guests will be immersed in nature and animal pastures, providing unique experiences with every visit,” said Jo-Elle Mogerman, Ph.D., Saint Louis Zoo WildCare Park Director. “Every visit will be a new adventure.”
While subject to change, here is the initial list of the guest experiences that will likely be at WildCare Park:
– Woodland Safari
– Savanna Safari
– Walking Safari
– A “zooseum”
– Nature adventure area
– Safari observation tower
– Premium safaris
– Giraffe feeding
– A restaurant
– An events center
Biodiversity Studies – Currently, there are eight areas of study: bats, birds, coyotes and foxes, invertebrates/ pollinators, plants, reptiles, amphibians, and water quality of lakes and streams. Potential projects for community involvement include FrogWatch and City Nature Challenge trainings, invasive plant removal, litter cleanups, bird walks and other nature experiences.
Recently, an antenna was installed on the roof of one of the buildings on the property to collect critical information about bird, bat and insect migration for a collaborative international study.
Education opportunities such as: nature exploration of terrestrial and aquatic habitats, biodiversity and the importance of ecosystem health, and zoo and conservation careers are available at the zoo. As well as vendor and contractor opportunities, including request for proposals. Visit the zoo’s website to learn more.