CEO: Birmingham Zoo undergoing changes, upgrades

More than 600,000 people visited popular attraction in 2017

By RON HARRIS, Daily Mountain Eagle
Posted 7/10/18

The Birmingham Zoo is undergoing changes that are designed to make the facility more attractive to those attending, according to Chris Pfefferkorn, the president and CEO of the zoo.

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CEO: Birmingham Zoo undergoing changes, upgrades

More than 600,000 people visited popular attraction in 2017

Posted

The Birmingham Zoo is undergoing changes that are designed to make the facility more attractive to those attending, according to Chris Pfefferkorn, the president and CEO of the zoo.

Pfefferkorn, who came to Birmingham from Oregon three years ago, was the guest speaker at Monday’s meeting of the Kiwanis Club of Jasper.

Pfefferkorn has more than 25 years of zoological experience, which includes serving as the Senior Vice President of the Birmingham Zoo, Deputy Director of Living Collections at Oregon Zoo, General Curator at Oregon Zoo, General Curator at Ellen Trout Zoo, Zookeeper/Behavior Management Coordinator at San Antonio Zoo and Zoological Curator and Zookeeper/Horticulturist at Glen Oak Zoo.

“We really think the Birmingham Zoo is a great regional facility,” Pfefferkorn said. “Even though it’s called the Birmingham Zoo, we believe we’re here for the region and the state.”

Beginning earlier this year, the Birmingham Zoo started getting a highly anticipated new welcome center and entrance.

The new entrance, which is going to be built in the same area where the original entrance was located, is budgeted to cost about $8 million of the $18.6 million raised through the Renew the Zoo initiative, according to the zoo’s website. The new welcome center is the initiative’s second of three phases and is set to take about a year to complete.

Pfefferkorn said the new two-story entrance building will be a “huge improvement in both visitor access and amenities.”

There were more than 600,000 visitors to the zoo in 2017, Pfefferkorn said. That number is expected to grow in 2018.

“Our attendance at the zoo has grown every year for about the past four years,” he said, “and these aren’t just people from Birmingham. We see license plates from Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi and other states.”

The Birmingham Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums — one of just 234 accredited zoos and aquariums in North America, Canada and Mexico, he said.

“What that means for us is that we stand alone from everybody because we have to meet stringent standards and get inspected every five years,” Pfefferkorn said.

That accreditation, he said, “sets us apart from the rest of the animal facilities around the country and around the world. Our standards are the highest that we have to meet.”

That includes, he said, categories such as education, finance, animal welfare, conservation and how well staff is treated.

“We want folks, when they come to our zoo, to first have fun. Come to our zoo and you’ll have fun, I promise,” he said.

Currently, there are just under 1,000 animals housed at the Birmingham Zoo.

For more information on the Birmingham Zoo, you can go to Birminghamzoo.com.