ZooTampa at Lowry Park reported finishing 2021 with a record attendance of 1,204,115 million guests. Furthermore, the Zoo amplified its work in the conservation of Florida wildlife by expanding its efforts in the fight to save manatees, a species facing an unprecedented year marked by record mortality rates.
“We started the year with optimism that families were going to continue to seek opportunities to safely enjoy outdoor activities that connect them with nature and each other,” stated ZooTampa President and CEO Joe Couceiro. “Throughout, we continued to champion Florida wildlife, provided exemplary care to all our animals, shared our inspirational stories of conservation; while maintaining a safe and beautifully lush environment, where our guests were entertained, educated and inspired to join us on our mission to save wildlife and wild places for future generations to enjoy.”
Looking back on 2021, Couceiro noted numerous zoo accomplishments including:
- The opening of the new attraction, Expedition Wild Africa offering up-close encounters with the world’s most majestic species.
- Enhanced seasonal Halloween and Christmas events and introduction of Comedy for Conservation.
- The expansion of ZooTampa’s leadership and efforts aimed at saving manatees:
- Surpassing a major milestone with a total of 500 manatees rescued since the opening of ZooTampa’s manatee critical care center.
- Supplementing rescue capabilities with additional staff members focused on the Manatee Stranding Network.
- Procurement of the ZT Saves retrofitted rescue vehicle which covered more than 6,400 miles and assisted in the rescue, transfer, and release of more than 40 manatees.
- Launch of manatee volunteer program to assist in stranding operations.
- The introduction of new species including binturongs and rare shoebill storks.
- The significant births of numerous vulnerable animals as part of the Species Survival Plan including endangered African penguins and Siamang, and threatened Inca tern, white rhino, and bongo.
- Partnerships with external conservation projects including AZA’s Wildlife Trafficking Alliance, International Rhino Foundation, Okapi Conservation Project, International Elephant Foundation, Painted Dog Research Trust, SANCCOB, Currumbin Wildlife Hospital, Bornean Orangutan Survival Foundation, Macaw Recovery Network and The Turtle Relief fund.
- The release of thousands of critically endangered Puerto Rican crested toad tadpoles to their native habitat.
- New partnerships that brought unique offerings to guests including the launch of the first-ever Wendy’s Frosty cart, the community electronics recycling drives with Urban E-Recycling, and the institution of sustainable aluminum cups with the Ball Corporation.
- The educational programs with the Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library, Champions for Children, Moffitt Cancer Center’s Healthy Kids Program- I Heart Teachers program which reached thousands of school-aged children.
- The procurement of the prestigious Institute of Museum and Library Services American Rescue Plan Grant for a program with at-risk families to help with the recovery of pandemic-related child learning and development challenges.
- The filming of the third and extended season of NatGeo’s Secrets of the Zoo: Tampa.
“It is important to acknowledge our community support” said Couceiro, adding, “We look ahead with excitement to 2022 as we introduce an incredible new species to the Zoo, hamadryas baboons, open the new Florida Wilds area featuring expanded habitats for endangered Florida panthers and black bears, and the introduction of a new state-of-the-art stingray habitat.”