Zoo Review

Tulsa, OK – A report from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) highlighting maintenance and staffing needs at Tulsa's Zoo re-affirms the urgency to transition the Zoo to private governance with additional funding as soon as possible, according to Phil Lakin, CEO of the Tulsa Community Foundation (TCF). Lakin was tapped last fall to lead a City and Tulsa Zoo Friends task force in the examination of new governance and financial restructuring for the Zoo.

The recently released eight-page AZA report resulted from Park Director Lucy Dolman's request for a review of the overall health and veterinary care of the Zoo's animal collection as well as facilities and operations supporting the collection. The AZA Accreditation Inspection team conducted its review in February shortly after the loss of two Tulsa Zoo giraffe.

"While clearly detailing our challenges, the report will be of tremendous benefit to the Zoo," said Terrie Correll, Zoo Director. "The report identifies numerous essential infrastructure, maintenance and staffing requirements that Tulsa must address if we are going to have a quality accredited zoo. We have already addressed some items highlighted by AZA and are making plans to address the remainder." Correll also noted that the report recognizes zoo staff for dedication to animal care and veterinary service as well as commends Tulsa Zoo Friends (TZF) for its financial contributions.

In addition to recognizing Parks Director Lucy Dolman's leadership for inviting the AZA inspection making the report possible, Susan Neal, Director of Community Development and Education said the City is fortunate to have the leadership of the Tulsa Community Foundation, TZF and Mayor Bartlett who are already working on a plan to address AZA's concerns through securing a new governance and financial structure for the Zoo.

The Tulsa Community Foundation has funded a governance and management analysis which calls for the city to transition the Zoo's governance to a "star power" board charged with raising additional funding, developing a strategic plan and moving all employees under a single management.

According to Neal, the City has been successful in three other such governance transitions involving its golf courses, the BOK Events Center/Convention Center, and Gilcrease Museum.

"It's fortunate we already had this initiative underway," said Lakin. "We knew our work was urgent, but the AZA report adds additional incentive and fuel to make this transition happen."

Plans are moving forward to name the board for Tulsa Zoo Management, Inc, (TZMI) a non-profit local board who will oversee the transition. Potential board members for TZMI toured the zoo with Mayor Dewey Bartlett last week.

"We hope to have the board as well as a transition coordinator in place by the end of this month," Lakin said.

"Thanks to TCF, The City and TZF, we are very optimistic about our zoo's future," Terri Correll said. "A new governance structure with a clear path to increased financial support will go a long way in demonstrating to AZA that we have the capacity to remain an accredited zoo."

As called for in the report, Correll will appear before the AZA's Accreditation Commission in August where she will present progress made on a number of the report's findings as well as how the new governance and finance plan will address remaining infrastructure and staffing needs.