2024 marks the 90th anniversary of the opening of Brookfield Zoo Chicago on the grounds of the Forest Preserves of Cook County. As we celebrate this milestone, Brookfield Zoo Chicago will later this year unveil its Next Century Plan – a visionary master plan deepening our commitment to conservation leadership while inspiring future generations to make a positive impact on the natural world around them. Next Century Commitments at Brookfield Zoo Chicago set forth a visionary roadmap encompassing various pillars that collectively propel the institution into a dynamic future:

· Champion Excellence and Leadership in Animal Care and Wellness 
As we champion excellence and leadership in animal care and wellness at Brookfield Zoo Chicago, our unwavering commitment to the well-being of our animals remains center stage. With many of the earth’s most endangered species under our care, a groundbreaking redevelopment of the Zoo’s campus will provide an unprecedented opportunity to propel the institution's longstanding legacy of excellence into the future.
Our animal care team, dedicated to imperative science and conservation work behind the scenes, will showcase their efforts prominently, allowing guests to witness the meticulous care that goes into ensuring the health and wellness of our diverse array of species. Guests will not only leave with the assurance that our animals are thriving with excellent care, but also with a profound understanding of the Zoo's pivotal role in wildlife conservation.
In our commitment to animal welfare, we will extend our current work and influence, collaborating with esteemed partners around the globe. Our scientists, veterinarians, and animal care experts engage in meaningful initiatives, leaving an indelible mark on the health and conservation of numerous species.
From coastal wildlife, such as bottlenose dolphin populations in Florida and Humboldt penguins in southern Peru, to native regional wildlife such as Blanding’s turtles within the Forest Preserves of Cook County and river otters within the watersheds of Illinois - through collaborative efforts, Brookfield Zoo Chicago will continue to stand at the forefront of not only caring for our animals, but also advocating for the broader well-being of wildlife in the larger ecosystem. 


· Revolutionize and Expand Animal Habitats and Spaces 
Our commitment to the future of animal habitats and spaces is deeply rooted in a legacy of innovation, beginning with the foresight and generosity of heiress and philanthropist Edith Rockefeller McCormick. Her visionary gift of 83 acres of land in 1919, with the stipulation that it be used for a world-class, modern Zoo, laid the foundation for a commitment to excellence that continues to shape our endeavors.
While much has changed over the past 90 years, our unwavering dedication to an innovative future remains steadfast. Privileged with the current footprint of 235 acres on land of the Forest Preserves of Cook County, much of it naturally wooded, Brookfield Zoo Chicago is positioned to seamlessly integrate animal habitats into the surrounding environment. Our vision extends beyond mere expansion – we aspire to revolutionize animal habitats and support facilities, surpassing conventional practices and positioning the Zoo at the forefront of progressive and compassionate zoological care, especially for endangered species.
Dynamic and flexible space designs are central to our commitment, enhancing opportunities for social interactions, behavioral choices, and movement for our animals. This, in turn, fulfills both their physical and psychological needs, while providing optimal conditions for our dedicated animal care, veterinary, and science teams to deliver state-of-the-art husbandry and wellness care. These new environments will not only showcase new species to our guests but also contribute to conservation efforts in the wild through immersive landscape experiences and native habitat simulations.
Championing this comprehensive approach to animal care and wellness, Brookfield Zoo Chicago is poised to strengthen its global leadership, expand its capacity, form new partnerships, and set an unparalleled gold standard for other Zoos and aquariums to emulate. Edith Rockefeller McCormick's foresight remains an integral part of our journey, serving as the cornerstone that propels us toward a future where the Zoo inspires guests to appreciate and celebrate the conservation of wildlife and wild places.


· Transform the Guest Experience and Elevate a Zoo For All 
At the core of Brookfield Zoo Chicago's ambitious vision for the next century is the intent to revolutionize our guest experience. This transformative shift will serve as a bold leap into the future, redefining how guests discover, connect with, and experience wildlife in meaningful and personal ways to inspire empathy, understanding, and drive action for positive change.
Modern guest amenities will not only meet the evolving needs of future audiences but also redefine the concept of a Zoo visit. Streamlined ticketing and entry processes will provide a more seamless arrival, allowing guests to make immediate animal connections and to build their own personalized visit journey unique to their interests and needs.
Highly immersive exhibits and participatory-rich activities will bring guests eye-to-eye with awe-inspiring animals in new ways, and engaging recreational offerings and attractions will provoke curiosity and fun for guests of all ages. An emphasis of fun will connect with the young and young of heart with the powerful educational messages the Zoo delivers.
New wayfinding navigation systems will provide seamless guidance throughout new eco-regions and recreational zones, while enhanced transportation systems and circulation pathways will make traversing the park more effortless. Additionally, the integration of technology such as virtual and augmented reality, interactive displays, and mobile application features will provide not only an extended educational dimension but also greater hospitality services in the palm of your hand.
A new amphitheater will be home to live programming for families, student field trips, community groups, and more featuring lively offerings from concerts to animal encounters. And, new meditation and reflection gardens, will offer a retreat for relaxation amidst the bustling Zoo environment.
Leading with our Zoo For All philosophy, the principles of accessibility and inclusion will be seamlessly integrated within the context of zoological experiences. The Zoo aspires to create an environment where every individual—irrespective of their background, language, abilities, or differences—not only feels welcomed, but embraced. Physical spaces will be thoughtfully designed with universal principles, featuring elements that cater to diverse needs.
Whether it's convenient mobile ordering, sustainably-farmed dining options, bottle filling stations, or new ways to discover animals, the modern amenities at Brookfield Zoo Chicago will cater to the diverse preferences of future audiences, making their visit both enjoyable and enriching.


· Extend Community and Environmental Education Impact  
Brookfield Zoo Chicago provides robust environmental science learning programs based on our mission to inspire conservation leadership by connecting people to wildlife and nature. Our educational vision inspires to build capacity for everyone—all audiences and ages— to participate in creative expression about animals and nature, igniting a sense of wonder, and providing opportunities for people and communities to build knowledge, skills, confidence, and conservation awareness that compel them to act on behalf of the environment.
The words Connect, Care, and Conserve reflect the essence of our mission and represent three domains of learning. Connect, or the cognitive domain, teaches guests and program participants to understanding the connections between themselves and experiencing an animal eye to eye. For most, we are our guests’ only opportunity to see a polar bear or dolphin. These engagements form an emotional connection that can drive them forward on a journey to care. Care, or the affective domain, teaches empathy for living things. It is only when we care about something that we are willing to act on its behalf. Conserve, or the behavioral domain, empowers people to take action that leads to a sustainable relationship with nature and drives personal choices to conserve wildlife.
Over the next decade, we will transform the entire Zoo campus into a living classroom, facilitating millions of up-close connections with nature and creating new pathways for culturally responsive and relevant informal science and environmental learning. Through interactive experiences and workshops, hands-on Nature Play activities, and the expansion of free, out-of-school programs like our King Conservation Leadership Academy, participants will not only deepen their understanding of the delicate balance of nature but also be inspired to become conservation advocates. These efforts help to close the gap between the declining amount of time individuals, especially children, are spending outdoors and to bolster the associated physical and mental health benefits of being in nature.
We will embed ourselves more fully in community spaces and neighborhoods, and collaborate with educators, schools, and civic supporters to nurture the next generation of changemakers. Programs that bring animals into communities will aim to bring the wonders of wildlife directly to neighborhoods, and a greater investment in schools and teacher training programs will ensure that educators become adept at incorporating environmental awareness into their curriculum, creating a ripple effect that permeates the educational landscape.


· Expand Contributions in Conservation Science and Research 
In the midst of a transformative era marked by environmental shifts, Brookfield Zoo Chicago stands at the forefront of a crucial mission—elevating conservation science and research to unprecedented heights for the next century. Our planet is grappling with a dual crisis of biodiversity loss and climate change that is decimating wild animal populations. The urgency of this biodiversity crisis compels us to acknowledge the impact of human activities from pollution to habitat loss are having on the planet and wildlife. It drives a collective awakening to the paramount importance of conservation and sustainability.
As an international conservation organization, Brookfield Zoo Chicago will continue to spearhead groundbreaking global field conservation projects, conduct cutting-edge research in animal behavior and wellbeing, and harness the collective power of voices and votes through policy and advocacy efforts to defend and inspire protections of wildlife and nature.
Locally, we gratefully acknowledge the Forest Preserve of Cook County as our premier partner in conservation efforts. Their ownership of the land we sit on, coupled with a shared commitment to conserving the natural world, strengthens our collaborative mission programs.
In alignment with global conservation efforts, Brookfield Zoo Chicago will provide greater contributions toward the International Union for Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) goal of conserving, connecting, and restoring 30 percent of the world's lands and waters by the year 2030. Leveraging our expertise and resources, we will also continue to invest in the protection and recovery of endangered species, working alongside a network of accredited Zoos and aquariums through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' (AZA) Saving Animals from Extinction (SAFE) program to ensure a sustainable future for wildlife populations. And, by linking arms with partners, we will launch new global conservation programs around the world from Peru to Kenya to Australia.


· Reinvigorate Existing Zoo Facilities and Assets and Build Climate Resiliency 
During Brookfield Zoo Chicago's nearly century-long history, its founding vision has been embodied in the bricks and mortar of historically significant buildings, winding pathways, enduring foundations, and enchanting fountains and grass malls. These tangible hardscape elements bear witness to the passage of time and the evolution of a beloved institution.
The Zoo’s existing facilities and assets will soon undergo a transformative metamorphosis that will honor and celebrate the campus’ distinctive architecture, while augmenting infrastructure to meet the needs of tomorrow. A Master Plan will serve as both a compass and a blueprint as we navigate the delicate balance between honoring tradition and embracing innovation. We recognize the imperative to not only protect our architectural treasures, but also to breathe new life into aging facilities.
Through new facilities and renovation of historical buildings we will show our guests the importance of sustainable development and practices, and commit to a future that walks the walk. These ambitions work in tandem with the Sustainability & Climate Resiliency Plan developed by the Forest Preserves of Cook County, strategically addressing the escalating challenges posed by climate change.

Through a range of practical and impactful measures we will also strive to achieve carbon neutrality and environmental sustainability. We will transition to renewable energy sources, optimize energy efficiency in our facilities, and reduce waste through recycling and composting programs to minimize our carbon footprint. We will include habitat restoration projects on Zoo grounds in our green operations, promoting biodiversity and ecosystem health. By investing in electric vehicle fleets, installing solar panels, and implementing water conservation measures, we will reduce our environmental impact and inspire guests and industry peers to adopt similar practices. We will advance our business practices by exploring options such as carbon credits for travel and sourcing sustainable materials for construction and maintenance. We will prioritize sustainable purchasing practices and hold our vendors to high standards, selecting partners who share our strong commitment to sustainability. Additionally, we will transform food, retail, and dining operations to minimize environmental impact by reducing and eliminating single-use plastics, ensuring that all merchandise sold in our retail outlets aligns with our sustainability goals.
Through all construction, the Zoo will generate millions of dollars in new economic impact and tourism revenues for the State of Illinois and its communities, create thousands of new jobs, and foster greater economic mobility for local communities and diverse contractors through the institution’s unwavering commitment to partnering with minority, women, disadvantaged and veteran-owned business enterprises. An investment in the future of Brookfield Zoo Chicago is an investment in the future of wildlife and us all.


· Harness Collective Power of Staff and Supporters 
To guide and propel one of America's premier Zoos into its second century, Brookfield Zoo Chicago must harness the strength inherent in every facet of its significant community of support. Recognizing that transformative change and lasting impact require a sustained collective effort, our path forward calls for continued investment in our workforce, volunteers, members, and stakeholders.
Aspiring to be the preferred employer in the region and within the zoological community, Brookfield Zoo Chicago acknowledges that its success hinges on the collective strength of its team. This commitment extends to the implementation of creative and effective strategies for recruiting, developing, and retaining top talent from the national Zoo and aquarium community and the Chicagoland job market. Competitive compensation, coupled with an integrated talent management program, will further fortify the strategic approach to employee development, engagement, and enrichment. 
Volunteers serve and donate generously of their time to sustain our mission, enhance the guest experience, and foster a deeper connection between the community and the diverse wildlife we aim to protect. Looking ahead, we remain committed to nurturing and expanding this invaluable volunteer force, recognizing that their energy and enthusiasm are catalysts for transformative change and lasting impact.
The esteemed members of our Board of Trustees play pivotal roles that extend far beyond governance, embodying a commitment to stewardship and advocacy for the Zoo's mission. Their significant contributions in terms of time, resources, and strategic guidance provide the organizational compass steering us toward continued success. Along with our Governing Members, Women’s Board, and Young Professionals, we remain dedicated to fostering collaborative partnerships that ensures depth of wisdom and expertise to shape the vision and strategic direction of Brookfield Zoo Chicago.
Our foundation rests on the generosity of Edith Rockefeller McCormick’s gift in 1923 to create a modern Zoo for Chicago. In the subsequent century the philanthropic leaders of Chicago have embraced the Zoo and fostered our success. As we build for the next century, we will engage the next generation of civic leaders to help build our future.
Beyond mere numbers, our 120,000-household membership base represents a community of advocates deeply invested in the well-being of Brookfield Zoo Chicago. Their continued support not only amplifies our impact but also creates a network of individuals passionate about wildlife conservation. Looking forward, we are committed to enhancing the membership experience, providing unique opportunities for engagement, and cultivating a sense of belonging within this vibrant community.