Providing close-up animal experiences which inspire connections to wildlife & action toward conservation in our region & around the world.
Vision and Values: To be an inspiration for our employees, visitors and community to respect all LIFE by:
Leading through service to others
Investing in our present for our future
Focusing on excellence, innovation, value and teamwork
Educating about our impact on the living world
Since 1923, when founder Bert Onsgard started our zoo with one orphaned deer, rallying the community to dedicate a place for people to experience animals close-up, the role of zoos has changed dramatically. Gone are the days of cement floor cages with small enclosures and little thought to animal comfort. Zoos have evolved to become caretakers, leaders in conservation, sustainability, research and education. The Lake Superior Zoo is an Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Accredited institution, which means we’re held to the highest standards of animal care and safety protocol. Each year, approximately 10,000 students, teachers and chaperones come from all over the area to experience the beauty of our animals. Each child leaves with a unique experience and a closer connection to the world around them.
The zoo has experienced good times and bad throughout its history, and recently transitioned from being run by the City of Duluth to being run by the Lake Superior Zoological Society. Shortly afterwards, in 2011 we earned back our AZA Accreditation which had been lost back in 2005. AZA members meet rigorous professional standards for animal welfare, veterinary care, wildlife conservation, scientific research, education, expert staffing, and safety protocol. With only 224 accredited zoos and aquariums in seven countries, this puts us in league with the top zoos the nation!
Twenty years ago, the AZA established the Species Survival Plan Program™ (SSP), which is a long-term plan involving conservation breeding, habitat preservation, public education, field conservation, and supportive research to ensure survival for many of the planet's threatened and endangered species. SSP animals at our zoo include: snow leopard, Amur tiger, Goeldi’s monkey, White-Naped crane, and Cotton-top tamarin.
The Lake Superior Zoo continues to be a resource and partner to the surrounding community. In 2011, our Zoomobile traveled to 143 schools and organizations, bringing close-up encounters to more than 4389 children and 2590 adults. We are a source for UMD students studying anthropology and a safe place for families to bring kids to enjoy time together. 2,300 families currently hold memberships to our zoo. As family time becomes scarcer and the natural world becomes something only seen on TV, zoos become more important every day.
In June 2012, the zoo and surrounding community experienced an unprecedented flood. With an unexpected downfall of eight inches of rain in just a few short hours, our natural and beautiful Kingsbury Creek that runs through the heart of the zoo reached depths of up to 12 feet. This inundation resulted in the loss of several animals and the displacement of others, as well as the destruction of our train depot. Currently, our otters and foxes are residing in our Animal Care Center until funds are secured for new exhibits.
We continue to move forward with determination and resolve. In our walk-in barnyard, we have a new chicken coop and many new animals to interact with our guests. Our project to upgrade the WPA built pavilion on our grounds is scheduled to begin in 2013. This construction will give us more classroom space for our education department and the ability to accommodate group events such as weddings, birthdays, reunions and corporate parties.
Our zoo train, which services 12,500 riders every year and is a highlight of a zoo visit for many kids, is in need of a new depot. While our former depot was just a little thing, we’d like the new one to have space for gatherings like birthday parties and to park and recharge our train at night, keeping it safe for many years to come. We’ve chosen an area that would be near a playground and the barnyard to create a space for families to linger and play. With vending capabilities and an outdoor fireplace, this space would function year-round.
To revitalize our zoo in the short-term as we await the final assessments on the damages and reimbursements involved in our polar shores exhibits, we plan to install a new exhibit in our main building that will house naked mole rats! These interesting creatures have much to teach us about social structure and the amazing way that nature adapts.
Funding is needed for all of these projects as well as flood recovery projects like building new exhibits for the otters and foxes. Our aim is to continue to grow and be a resource for the surrounding region.