February 8, 2024

Hope's New Home



With more than a million species in danger of extinction worldwide, many due to devastating habitat loss, zoo-based conservation has become an essential component of long-term species survival. As an Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA)-accredited institution, Denver Zoo has long participated in the Species Survival Plan (SSP) to ensure genetic diversity in wildlife bred under human care. But as an urban campus with a finite 80-acre geographic footprint, the space we can utilize to make a significant impact has been historically limited—until now.

Spanning 570 acres in Weld County, Colorado, the Lembke Family Preserve will allow Denver Zoo to dramatically evolve both our animal care and conservation breeding practices. The Lembke Family Preserve represents the dawn of a new era for Denver Zoo and will dramatically expand our capabilities for our animals and Colorado wildlife as we build it out in the coming years,” said Bert Vescolani, President and CEO of Denver Zoo. “We are deeply grateful to the Lembke family for their generosity and mutual understanding that saving wildlife for future generations requires a dedicated community of donors, members, partners and neighbors.”   

Phase 1: Holding + Breeding

A recognized industry leader in both animal care and conservation breeding, Denver Zoo is already doing important work on our main campus; imagine what we can do with nearly 7X the space! In PHASE 1 of the Lembke Family Preserve, we’ll be able to expand our current SSP efforts, with more space for our growing animal families as well as the potential to add new species to our program. We’ll also gain greater holding capacity as well as temporary relocations for habitat maintenance or renovation.

Phase 2: Research + Reintroduction

In phase two, the Zoo plans to transform the facility into a conservation center focused on conservation breeding and wild reintroduction of species that are threatened or endangered in Colorado and beyond. The center, both a physical satellite campus and the philosophical heart of present and future conservation collaborations, will allow Denver Zoo to make a more meaningful impact on the future of regionally Threatened and Endangered species in our home state. It will also give us a more robust framework for much-needed conservation breeding research—with the long-term goal of increasing the success of wildlife reintroduction programs in Colorado and worldwide.

Zoo-Based Conservation: Why it Matters

Bob Lembke explained the drive behind the gift: “Denver Zoo has been part of our family tradition since the late 1950s. Both Carol and I loved visiting the old zoo of our childhood, and we took our kids there many times. It’s always a special family outing. With the stewardship provided to endangered species by the Zoo through The Preserve, we hope that the Zoo can be part of our family for generations.” 

As intact wild ecosystems continue to decrease, the number of species that are viable candidates for reintroduction is also in rapid decline. With your help, the Lembke Family Preserve will enable Denver Zoo to scale our leadership in two vital ways. First, our world-class animal care experts will have a spacious secondary campus on which to foster continued health and well-being for our animal family—many of whose species are Threatened or Endangered. Second, in partnership with other organizations, the Lembke Family Preserve will allow Denver Zoo to advance the science of conservation breeding and reintroduction. This critical field of research is a rapidly evolving space, and YOU can be instrumental in this essential phase of discovery.

YOU can make a lasting impact for Threatened and Endangered animals! All visits, memberships and donations support our wildlife conservation efforts in Colorado + worldwide. For updates on the Preserve and its evolution, be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and TikTok. 



We are grateful for the generosity of the Lembke Family Foundation, who, along with thousands of other donors, are supporting Into the Great Wild Open—a $75M comprehensive campaign for the future of Denver Zoo. To join these supporters, click below.


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