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Today's Family Magazine

Cleveland Zoological Society

Get up-close and personal at The Rosebrough Tiger Passage.

By Stacy Turner

“As a mom, I’ve taken my kids to zoos all over the country,” says Sarah Crupi, executive director for the Cleveland Zoological Society.  While she and her family appreciate a wonderful guest experience, she knows that so much goes into making everything happen.  She describes the Cleveland Zoological Society as a “behind-the-scenes partner” of the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo.

The Cleveland Zoological Society is an independent philanthropic organization that helps support the Zoo, which is owned and operated by the Cleveland Metroparks organization.  Together, they share a joint mission to connect people with wildlife, inspiring conservation efforts for threatened and endangered animals in the process. 

“We know that many people may never have the opportunity to see an elephant in the wild, but they can come to our zoo to see them and learn about them,” Crupi added. “Zoos educate and inspire guests, and the animals they see are ambassadors for those in the wild.  It’s exciting to be a part of making that happen.” 

The zoo is nearly 140 years old, and has seen many changes during its long history.  Since it’s inception in 1957, the Cleveland Zoological Society has partnered with the Zoo to help support animal care & welfare, foster education, and help fund international conservation work.  She noted that the Zoological Society works with the zoo to solicit donations from individuals, corporations, and organizations throughout northeast Ohio and nationally to support those efforts. 

Each year, the Zoological Society provides the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo with $200,000 annually for food and supplies –– helpful, since the zoo’s animals eat 550 tons of hay each year.   In addition, they provide $360,000 each year for education programs, helping the zoo reach 100,000 regional school children annually. 

For over 20 years, the Zoo has collaborated on efforts that combat habitat loss, illegal trade, and conflict with humans that threaten species around the world.  Aided by financial support from the Zoological Society, the Zoo supports efforts including the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund as well as conservation efforts for several other species.  “I absolutely love this job!” Crupi marveled.  “We help make a difference every day.”

Since 1998, the Zoological Society has provided $30 million for capital improvement projects at the Zoo.  “The Zoological Society is especially proud of the Daniel Maltz Rhino Reserve,” Crupi shared.  The zoo’s newest capital improvement project opened last June.  She noted that despite the zoo being closed to the public, the animals still required daily feeding and care throughout the shutdown.  “The animals didn’t know we had a global pandemic,” she joked.  “The fact that the Zoological Society was able to fully fund the $2.5 million expansion project amid the financial stresses is remarkable,” she added.

The project more than doubled the space for the zoo's eastern black rhinos, and boasts a new bull barn and a new yard more than twice the size of the previous outdoor area.  The expansion also provides enrichment items including a shade structure with mister for hot days, heated elements for winter, and a giant, hinged log that can be manipulated by the rhinos (think rhino tether ball).  Other notable projects include Asian Highlands, which opened in 2018, the Rosebrough Tiger Passage in 2016, the Circle of Life Carousel in 2014, and African Elephant Crossing in 2011. 

The Zoological Society manages the zoo’s membership program with membership fees being tax-deductible.  “Memberships provide necessary operating support for the zoo, as well as funding needed to care for the animals that live there,” Crupi explained.  In addition, a portion of every membership helps support conservation efforts around the world.

“The best way to support your zoo is by visiting, buying a membership, or making a donation,” Crupi noted. “No amount is too small to help care for the animals.”  Each donation helps ensure our community has access to not only see amazing animals first-hand, but to learn about them and help care for the species in the wild.” 

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