New Management Has New Plans For The Tulsa Zoo

Thursday, June 24th 2010, 5:04 pm
By: News On 6

By Chris Wright, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- Its new management is confident it can turn around the troubled Tulsa Zoo. The zoo is in the process of being privatized.

6/21/2010 Related Story: New Management To Take Over At Tulsa Zoo

The News On 6 talked to one of its new board members Thursday.

Tulsa Zoo Friends is now Tulsa Zoo Management Incorporated, and is still in the process of hammering out a deal with the city that will allow it to take over operations.

Once that happens, the group believes it can revitalize the zoo.

Phil Lakin is one of 13 board members that make up the new Tulsa Zoo Management Inc. All are heavy hitters in the Tulsa business community, and Lakin believes they can raise the cash needed to give the zoo a facelift.

"The cages that are deteriorating or the barn that's not adequate to maintain the giraffe's warmth during winter," Lakin said. "Those kind of things have to be immediately taken care of."

Once the Tulsa Zoo is privatized, the new board will have some serious fundraising to do. An estimated $50 to $100 million is needed for maintenance and new exhibits. Even more pressing is keeping the zoo accredited with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. After the death of two giraffes, that's not guaranteed.

"We can't afford to lose AZA accreditation," Lakin said. "That's the number one goal is securing that accreditation, and it's on the line. We lose it we have to shut down the zoo."

There have been two previous efforts to privatize the zoo, but neither materialized. But with the city struggling to come up with funding and donations, Lakin believes is perfect for this transition.

"We have no choice," he said. "If we don't do anything, then we will certainly close the zoo within a year or two."

Lakin says that 70% of the nation's zoos have already been privatized. Tulsa Zoo Management and the city hope to have all the details of this deal worked out by the end of the summer.