Strategic Framework Pillars

Denver Zoo's new
strategic framework,
"a movement for wildlife."

When you gaze into the eye of a tiger, what do you see? Wisdom. Fearlessness. Grace.  

And perhaps, glimmering just below the surface, your own potential to embody these qualities. The awe we experience in the presence of wild animals teaches us about our world and ourselves. It inspires us to step into our power. It moves us to take action for our collective future.

And there’s never been a more important time to engage with wildlife. A recent United Nations study revealed that a million plant and animal species are on the brink of extinction—and there’s a growing need for experienced wildlife advocates to lead the way into a brighter, more sustainable future.

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A Movement for Wildlife is about more than the future of the Denver Zoo: the city’s premier curator of connections for 125 years. It’s about curiosity, community, and the stewardship of the beautiful home we share. This strategic framework is the foundation upon which Denver Zoo will build an even brighter future--for our organization and team, for the communities we serve, and for the animals with which we share this beautiful world.

It’s going to be an exciting adventure, and we invite you to join us.

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our new mission + vision

Denver Zoo is proud to be the city’s most passionate advocate for the natural world, and its favorite place to connect with friends and family. Today, our pivotal point in both cultural and environmental history demands a new mission: Inspiring Communities to Save Wildlife for Future Generations. In service of our new vision—A World Where Wildlife Thrives—this mission will drive everything we do.

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Strategic Framework Pillars

Our four passion-driven pillars

Wildlife, Community, Resources + Zoo Team
—focus our actions into clear and achievable directions.

Strategic Framework Pillars Bullet Points
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Our four passion-driven pillars

Wildlife, Community, Resources + Zoo Team
—focus our actions into clear and achievable directions.

Strategic Framework Pillars Mobile
Strategic Framework Pillars: Wildlife


The connection between animals and humankind is an essential part of who we are as a species—and galvanizing this bond has always been central to Denver Zoo’s mission. Since 1918, when the opening of Bear Mountain made us the first institution in the U.S. to employ bar-free enclosures, we've been one of the most vocal and innovative wildlife warriors in the world. Here’s where the adventure leads next.

Animal Care

As one of only 10% of zoos in the world be accredited by the American Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), Denver Zoo’s world-class animal care is undisputed. Recently certified by American Humane, we are proud to continue our industry leadership with the the state-of-the-art Helen and Arthur E. Johnson Veterinary Hospital, which began treating animals in the fall of 2020. We’ll also be working to ensure the best experience for animals and guests alike, which means ongoing improvements across our campus—including new habitats and exciting offerings spanning 80+ acres.

Strategic Framework Wildlife Vietnam


Although our commitment to saving wildlife spans five continents over 25 years, some of our most important work has happened quietly, in faraway places. Today, as a zoo-based conservation organization, we understand that we must raise our voice in order to be heard. Going forward, we’ll be working to ensure that the exhibits and educational programs here on campus reflect our Field Conservation efforts around the world—providing not just information, but clear avenues of action.

Active Denver Zoo Field Conservation Focus Areas: 

  • Vietnam: Tonkin snub-nosed monkey
  • Peru: Lake Titicaca frog + Lake Junin frog
  • Mongolia: Argali sheep, goitered gazelle + cinereous vulture
  • Rocky Mountains: American bison, pika + grassland restoration


From being first in the country to receive the “Greenest Zoo in the U.S.” designation from the AZA (2011) to achieving Zero Waste (by 2025), Denver Zoo always keeps our environmental footprint at the forefront of our goals. We're working to ensure that every facet of our operations—from decreasing our water and energy usage to compostable concessions and uniform shirts made from recycled water bottles—meets the strictest standards for responsible sourcing and stewardship.


At Denver Zoo, we believe education is the critical link between awe and action, and we’re uniquely positioned to motivate millions to join The Movement for Wildlife. So, while each of our 1.8 million annual guests always learns something new, we know that raising awareness is only the first step. We have a responsibility to ensure that our on-site, in-class and outreach programs provides not only a full breadth of engaging facts about our animals—but also reveal a clear path to protecting the planet.

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Strategic Framework Pillars: Communities


Wonder is a common language—and since 1896, Denver Zoo has been a vital cultural cornerstone for the communities we serve. During that time, we’ve welcomed and engaged people of all ages, abilities, locations and economic status, almost every day of the year.

But today’s Mile High City is seven times more populous and infinitely more diverse than in those early days. So, as we look to the future, we’re working towards an even more inclusive and symbiotic relationship with the people who live, work, learn and play among us.

How? By creating new ways for our guests to experience awe, gain understanding and take action for the future of wildlife. And why? Because the relationships we forge are critical to the survival of all species—including our own. Here’s how we’re moving towards these goals.

Strategic Framework Community

Denver’s Wildest Welcome

To continue creating meaningful connections for all kinds of citizens, we’ll working with stakeholders spanning a spectrum of interests to understand the new Denver.

Urban Conservation Station

As a zoo-based conservation organization, we’ll be expanding our exhibits and on-site education efforts to ensure our guests feel both inspired and empowered to save wildlife.

Partners in Possibility

We’ll also be cultivating partnerships with like-minded regional organizations to further and expand our status as Colorado’s oldest and most vocal advocate for the natural world.

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Strategic Framework Pillars: Resources


It’s no small feat to provide industry-leading care for nearly 3,000 wild animals, 365 days a year—let alone the unforgettable experiences we create for our 1.8 million annual guests. It takes $115,000 a day just to open the doors at Denver Zoo. And that’s not accounting for improvements we make to our 80-acre campus, from minor updates like Rudy the rhino’s shady new digs to major efforts like the Helen and Arthur E. Johnson Animal Hospital.

Awe-inspiring exhibits and up-close experiences are essential to creating meaningful connections between guests and our amazing animals. And, while guest admission and governmental grants help to offset our daily operating costs, our exhibits are 100% funded by philanthropy. As we continually optimize our resource strategy, we’ll be placing an even greater emphasis on fundraising—both for essential infrastructure updates and brand-new offerings. Here's what’s coming your way very soon.

NEW in 2020: Stingray Cove

Inspired by the unique landscape and vibrant culture of Mexico’s Baja California Peninsulathis permanent seasonal open-air exhibit gives guests the chance to touch and feed gentle cownose and southern stingrays as they swoop and glide freely around the 15,000-gallon tank they share with peaceful bamboo and bonnethead sharks.

NEW in 2020: Animal Hospital

The 22,000-square-foot Helen and Arthur E. Johnson Animal Hospital ensures optimal care of the animals who call Denver Zoo home. The facility features two treatment rooms, critical care units, a cutting-edge surgical suite and a Visitor’s Center—all supported by the most technologically advanced zoological veterinary equipment in the industry.

New Vet Hospital

Opening in 2021: NEW Penguin Exhibit

Inspired by the rocky coastlines of Cape Horn, this front-and-center habitat will allow our African penguin flock—an endangered species—to dive and swim in larger, circulated pools ringed by sandy beaches. Multiple viewing portals will allow guests to view their antics underwater and on land.

Coming Soon: Flamingo Lagoon

An integral part of Denver Zoo’s South Coast ecosystem, our new Flamingo Lagoon will provide a more authentic, enriching and sustainable environment for our American flamingos. More space and a central location will ensure the natural charisma of the species is on full display.

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Strategic Framework Pillars: A Zoo Team

one zoo team

It takes a special kind of person to put wildlife first—and Denver Zoo is fortunate to have more than a thousand examples of this rare species in the mix. This wild and exceptional bunch includes nearly 400 staff members, 600 devoted volunteers, a dedicated Board of Governors and Leadership Council, PLUS a host of like-minded vendors and commercial partners who support our efforts in countless ways.

Under the leadership of CEO Bert Vescolani, we’re working to continue building one of the most passionate and talented teams in the world. One Zoo Team, working together, and wholly focused on a singular mission: Inspiring Communities to Save Wildlife for Future Generations.

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Strategic Framework

This framework is the foundation upon which Denver Zoo will build an even brighter future—for our organization and team, for the communities we serve, and for the animals with which we share this beautiful world.