Dallas Zoo asks city council for $30M allocation from bond money for new projects

One year after the Dallas Zoo dealt with a missing clouded leopard, two stolen monkeys and the death of a vulture, the zoo told council members it is now on its way to being one of the safest in the country.

The Dallas Zoo says it invested more than $1 million in security upgrades after a string of troubling incidents a year ago. 

Now, the zoo is looking ahead to new projects, including one that will bring back the beloved rhinos.

"It's been a tough year," admitted Dallas Zoo Chief Operating Officer Sean Greene. "I think with your support, we've met the challenge."

The tough year started with a series of tampering incidents at animal habitats, the theft of two monkeys and a suspicious vulture death that now appears to be the result of a bobcat getting into the enclosure.

But the zoo's response over the following months with added security and oversight received strong support from some members of the Dallas City Council.


Dallas Zoo gives update on enhanced security; stolen monkeys return to exhibit

Dallas Zoo leaders told city council members that the zoo has made a lot of enhancements to its security after three enclosures were cut. And in a fourth enclosure, a vulture had a fatal wound.

"I've been nothing but pleased with the treatment of animals," said Councilman Adam Bazaldua.

Now, zoo leaders are making their case for more money in the upcoming bond election, highlighting how their facility is seen as a national model for doing things right when it comes to caring for elephants. 

"We are still one of the only zoos in the world and the only in the country that mixes elephants with other species," said Dallas Zoo Chief Mission Officer Harrison Edell. "The idea when an elephant wakes up and heads into the habitat and they don't know what they are going to do or what other animals they will share space is tremendously enriching."

The bond improvements would help fund a new half-mile safari trail that would open up 15 acres of parkland, adding 24 animal species including beloved rhinos.

"Because we pride ourselves in trailblazing, your Dallas Zoo will be the only one in the country with rhinos and cheetahs living together in a mixed habitat," Edell said.

Zoo leaders also explained the need for a new four-story, 580-space parking garage.

"There were multiple days, dozens when we are out of parking. Spring break, dollar days, traffic circling neighborhoods. That is not always great," Greene said.

The zoo's attendance nearly doubled over the past 15 years from around 500,000 visitors a year to nearly a million. 

The Dallas Zoo initially asked for a $30 million allocation from the bond, but zoo leaders say they understand the council has had to make difficult choices for the funds. 

A final decision on how to allocate the bond money will be made in the coming weeks before potentially going to voters in May.