The Audobon Zoo

THE AUDUBON ZOO, 1993 The Audubon Zoo is located in New Orleans, Louisiana and is a 501(3)(c) non-profit organization. In 1914 the Audubon Commission was created to maintain and develop Audubon Park. In 1919 the Audubon Institute was established as the parent agency. Over the next several decades many changes would occur including the addition of a monkey cage, mammal cage and a deer paddock. Louisiana school children purchased the first elephant in 1924 and shortly thereafter an aquarium and sea lion pool was added.

Through the Great Depression of the 1930s and 1940s the zoo was barely able to keep its doors openand in the 1950s it was labeled an animal “ghetto” by the media. In 1970 the U. S. Humane Society insisted the zoo be brought to industry standards. In the early 1970s the Commission worked closely with Mr. Ron Forman, City Hall Liaison for Audubon Park, to pass a special referendum that generated close to $2 million in bonds. These funds were the beginning of the Zoo’s restoration project that enabled it to expand from 19 acres to over 55 acres.

Volunteers at the Zoo formally became known as Friends of the Zoo. By the 1980s the Zoohad received accreditation from the American Zoo and Aquarium Association and was noted as one of the nation’s top-rated zoological parks. And in 1989, Friends of the Zoo became known as Audubon Nature Institute where it remains today. Today, the zoo combines research laboratories with acres of pristine natural habitat where rare and endangered animals roam and reproduce (ANI, 2009). The Audubon Nature Institute’s mission to servesone purpose: Celebrating the Wonders of Nature.

Its facilities carry on this mission through the Audubon Park, Audubon Zoo, Woldenberg Riverfront Park, Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, Freeport-McMoRan Audubon Species Survival Center, Entergy IMAX Theatre, Audubon Louisiana Nature Center, Audubon Center for Research of Endangered Species, Audubon Wilderness Park, Audubon Insectarium and Audubon Nature Institute Foundation. Additional opportunities for the Zoo include technological advances in animal breeding and new interactive computer programs that allow visitors to become educated about the animals history, environment, special characteristics, feeding and origination.

Educational programs for both children and adults are offered through visitor programs, school field trips, outreach programs, and educator’s resources. A very real threat to the Zoo is the unpredictability of Mother Nature. New Orleans is located on the Gulf of Mexico and hurricanes cause a threat to coastal areas during the summer and fall seasons. Tourists and residents will be deterred from visiting the Zoo during inclement weather and will have a negative impact on admissions revenue for an undetermined amount of time. A SWOT analysis is essential in evaluating the market potential of the Zoo.

In areas of strength; new attractions will draw repeat customers and with the educational activities offered year round there is a limitless supply of “new” school children as they grow and develop their interest in the world around them. The rehabilitation center for injured animals is a favorite of the public and should be marketed accordingly. And, the Zoo’s Center for Research of Endangered Species has been recognized as “top notch” and as such also holds considerable value in marketing. The one major weakness of the Zoo is its absolute necessity to depend on donations from a generous public.

Unfortunately, not all funds that are pledgedare actually received by the Zoo and this creates challenges in budgeting from quarter-to-quarter and year-to-year. In a poor economy when the public are forced to worry about basic survival needsdonations will sharply decline. While the Zoo enjoys a heavy supply of volunteers, which creates a positive image to the community, they cannot be held to the same standards as paid employees. Volunteers are more apt to come and go as they will and this leaves the Zoo at the mercy of over worked, understaffed employees.

A financial analysis of the Zoo reveals that it has done very well and that at the end of 1982 it was virtually self-sufficient. Improved efficiency in the area of operations was the first step towards this turnaround. The Zoo is entering a maturity stage and should look for opportunities to reduce its employment costs, non-value added programs and departments, administrative supplies and expenses associated with daily overhead. Media exposure can be highly expensive and as a non-profit entity the Zoo should take advantage of as much free exposure as possible.

Press releases about new acquisitions, programs, animals, and the rehabilitation center should be sent to the media on a continuing basis. News articles with information about the different animals and the lands they originate from could become a regular travel guide feature of the local print media. Holding special events for a targeted segment of the public could draw additional revenue; live music on the green or in the park, Sunday afternoon Jazz Concert, or birthday parties with the special child’s favorite animal as the thememay stimulate growth in revenue.

Another idea would be to consider an “adopt-an-animal” program. Local schools, businesses or individuals could agree to “adopt” an animal and provide monetary support through fund-raising or in-kind donations. Offering a yearly pass for residents at a discounted rate may seem contradictory to the idea of increased revenue but, if the community felt that they could visit the Zoo at any time without paying an entrance fee they may be more apt to spend discretionary dollars on hats, tee-shirts, sweat-shirts or other accessories, concession stand items and impulse buying of souvenirs.

Key factors in bringing a successful turnaround of the Zoo begins with the original bond of $2 million and the total of a $5. 6 million development program that was created by the Audubon Park Commission. These funds permitted expansion of the Zoo to its present 48 acres allowing the area to be divided into geographic sections that featured the differentiation of the animals.

Next was the implementation of admission charges to generate revenue and help off-set the few donations the Zoo received. The creation of the group Friends of the Zoo, which managed guidelines for the many topics and programs available also offered the edZOOcators conductededucational programs. The implementation of fundraising through new and interesting events and finally, the continuous expansion of programs and updating of other programs helped to create the Zoo’s success.

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