Director's Holiday Wishes

Written by Pat Simmons, CEO & Director, North Carolina Zoo

Hello Zoo Friends!

Tis the season for spending time with friends and family, reflecting on 2021, and looking forward to the New Year. As the Director and CEO of the North Carolina Zoo, I am honored to serve you, the citizens of North Carolina, plus the many tourists visiting the heart of North Carolina. While there is no doubt this past year has been a mixed bag, it is the good things for which I am incredibly grateful. As the writer David Steindl-Rast penned, "The root of joy is gratefulness. It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful." With joy in my heart during this holiday season, I would like to share some gratitude with you.  

First, I am very grateful to you, our guests! It is with delight that we welcome you and your family and friends to this beautiful zoo. This is meaningful to all of us at the Zoo since last year (2020), we were closed for three whole months, then had to set limits on how many people we could let in our gates. It is refreshing this year to see more families enjoying themselves outdoors, exploring our five miles of trails, and encountering wildlife from all over the world. 

I am grateful for the outstanding service that our staff gives to the animals under our care. Zoo staff come on-site every day to attend to the animals, regardless of holidays or severe weather. The keepers and veterinary staff provide extraordinary care to all the animals here. We celebrate births, but we also mourn deaths. That is the natural order of life. This year we lost Tommo, our elderly but beloved grizzly bear. He lived to the very ripe old age of 31—for a grizzly bear, that is amazing! That Tommo lived to such an old age is a testament to the excellent care he received throughout the many years while at the Zoo. Our philosophy is that we commit to the lifelong care of these animals, providing them with choice and stimulating environments. 

I am grateful that the North Carolina Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). This is important because it reflects the highest standard of professionalism in the zoo world— from animal care and wellness, wildlife conservation, park maintenance, guest services, and financial stability.  

I am grateful to the Zoo staff who work tirelessly to protect endangered animals in the wild. We have staff that work with saving native species, but we also do field conservation work globally. Did you know that you are helping us do this important work? Your ticket admission (and donations) help fund the wildlife conservation work led by Zoo staff in over 60 countries. Everything we do underpins our mission to protect wildlife. We want these marvelous animals and places to inspire future generations. 

I am grateful for the care and successful breeding of endangered animals here at the Zoo, including the critically endangered American red wolf. This wolf is found in the wild only in North Carolina, so it is near and dear to us. The Zoo leads several Saving Animals From Extinction (SAFE) programs under AZA. These include programs for the American red wolf, African vulture, and Asian hornbill. 

I am grateful for the world-class sustainability program at the Zoo. Ideas percolate at all levels across this Zoo to find new and novel ways to reduce, reuse and recycle. We believe that by showing what is possible to our guests, we will help them make better choices for the environment. 

I am excited to start the New Year. We have many projects that will create more engaging guest experiences, more connections to the animals, and bring more meaning to a trip to the North Carolina Zoo. Thank you all for your continued support of the Zoo.  

On behalf of all of us at the North Carolina Zoo, we wish you a season full of joy, good health, peace, and happiness.