Fort Worth Zoo Announces Massive Renovation, Fundraising Campaign

The Fort Worth Zoo is getting wilder indeed.

Zoo officials announced the meaning behind those green, blue and purple paint-splattered billboards and advertisements Monday when they revealed plans for A Wilder Vision – a campaign to raise $100 million for new exhibits, renovations and other upgrades to the zoo.

About $90 million has already been raised thanks to private donors like the Bass family, TCU basketball arena namesakes Ed and Rae Schollmaier, the Amon G. Carter Foundation and the Sid W. Richardson Foundation.

What the zoo needs now is the final $10 million, raised by the public.

This is the first time the zoo has done a public fundraising campaign, said Ramona Bass, whose family helped donate part of the first $90 million.

“The idea was to engage the public, for the community to buy in and be part of this incredible zoo that belongs to them,” she said.

Zoo upgrades will come in four phases: African Savanna, Elephant Springs, Hunters of Africa and Asian Predators, and Forests and Jungles.

Construction of African Savanna is already underway. The 10-acre stretch will host giraffe feeding, underwater hippo viewing and black rhino exhibits among other features. Zebras, antelope, giraffes and large birds will be grouped together in an open area with watering holes and shaded areas, designed to mimic an African savanna. The project should be completed by spring 2018.

A model of African Savanna, an area currently under construction at the Fort Worth Zoo. 

When African Savanna is done, next comes Elephant Springs, which will be triple the size of the existing elephant exhibit. This section includes bigger habitats, pools and fountains, along with space for viewing Asian one-horned rhinos. Elephant Springs is expected to open in spring 2020.

Hunters of Africa and Asian Predators will follow, scheduled to open in spring 2022. That section will have renovated habitats for big cats like hyenas, tigers, leopards and lions, as well as wild dogs.

Forests and Jungles will be the final development, planned for a spring 2025 opening. The zoo plans to bring in a new animal for this section – the okapi, a relative of the giraffe that hails from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Forests and Jungles will also be home to jaguars, apes and bongos.

Other plans for the zoo include event space, shaded trails and new dining areas.

But for all of it to happen, the zoo needs the public’s help, zoo director Mike Fouraker said.

There’s not necessarily a set time frame or deadline to raise the money, though the renovation plans span over a nine-year period, he said.

He said raising the first set of funds wasn’t difficult.

“No one came in and said ‘I want to put my name on something,’ ” Fouraker said. “We may ask some of the top donors to put their name on something, but they just wanted to give us money because they knew our vision would be carried out.”