Ashli Sims, News On 6
TULSA, Oklahoma -- Tulsa's Zoo is under new management. The city agreed Friday to turn over the reins of the Tulsa Zoo to a new, private non-profit.
Mayor Dewey Bartlett says this move insures that the zoo will maintain its accreditation and keep its gates open. And with a few strokes of a pen and a handshake, the Tulsa Zoo has a new manager.
"It should be an exciting day for the city of Tulsa, because we've really made a pretty monumental change to the way things will be run here at the Tulsa Zoo," said Phil Lakin, TZMI Board President.
The Tulsa Zoo will now be run by a private non-profit called the Tulsa Zoo Management Incorporated or TZMI.
The move comes after a series of problems for the zoo once called America's favorite. Deep budget cuts, an inspection that found a multi-million dollar maintenance backlog and staff shortages.
There was also some high-profile animal deaths. This had the Tulsa Zoo on the brink of losing its accreditation.
With a new board and a contract insuring funding, city and zoo leaders say they believe they'll be able to turn the attraction around.
"We the city have not been able to support it significantly enough to maintain the zoo in the manner that it deserves. and they'll be able to help us out in that regard," said Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett.
TZMI is launching a massive fundraising effort and plans to boost staffing by 25 people in the next year.
Zoo-goers may not see any changes immediately. But officials say this is laying the foundation for a new day at the Tulsa Zoo.
"things won't be broken. Things that are broken will be fixed. It's just going to be a better maintained more attractive zoo and I think that public will be very proud of it, as we all are," Bartlett said.
The city will still own the zoo and its assets, but TZMI will operate it and help raise money to update facilities.
Board president, Phil Lakin, says the group raised half-a-million dollars just this week. TZMI will officially take over in January.