Extra Care and Funding

From the favorite foods Como’s animals love to the free field trips that inspire the next generation, your contributions to Como Friends make more possible

There are few things Como Zoo’s giraffes love more than browsing—wrapping their legendarily long tongues around the tiny twigs and tender shoots of tree branches and shrub cuttings that keepers place in their habitat. Browse is easy to come by during the growing season, but when the cold weather comes, Como’s hoofstock herd often has to wait until springtime to tuck into their favorite bushes and branches. 

But thanks to your support for Como Friends, there’s a new giraffe snack solution on the horizon. With the help of donors, the African Hoofstock Building will have extra room in the budget to bring in fresh browse from warmer climes during the winter months, providing hours of munching, crunching, and curious exploration for Skeeter, Clover, Zinnia and Ivy, the cute new calf born in November. 

The funding for the winter browse is just a fraction of the $1.83 million annual contribution to Como Park Zoo & Conservatory that your support for Como Friends made possible this year. “We know that gifts of all amounts from our donors have an incredible impact for the animals at Como Zoo, the gardens at the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory and for the people who love to come and experience Como throughout the year,” says Jackie Sticha, president of Como Friends. “Since Como Friends’ start back in 2000, that’s really been one of the most satisfying aspects of our successful public-private partnership—seeing the enormous difference that a little extra generosity can make in the care of the plants and animals we love at Como, and in the ways we serve the community.” Here’s a look at how your gifts made a difference in 2023: 

Tools and Training for Even Better Animal Care:

More than 20 years ago, Como Friends funding helped launch the positive reinforcement animal training initiative that’s helped to make Como Zoo a national leader in progressive care for animals of all sizes, from penguins to polar bears. This year, your generosity will support continued animal training consulting, advising Como Zoo’s professional keepers on new findings about animal behavior and best practice training techniques to benefit all of the animals in Como’s care. Contributions from people like you also make it possible to amp up Como’s arsenal of specialized equipment, from specialized crates to care for polar bears and large cats; scuba tanks and spectrophotometers to keep water habitats healthy for amphibians, fish, and marine mammals; to a new radiograph, tonometer and digital x-ray machine that allow Como Zoo to provide quicker, cutting-edge veterinary care to animals. 

Como Friends is also making investments in more individualized animal needs. At Gorilla Forest, Schroeder’s tight-knit family troop will get a dedicated pathway for moving in and out of their habitat, giving gorillas greater choice about where they want to spend the day. A new shade structure is helping keep animals in the African Hoofstock habitat cooler on hot days. And in Tropical Encounters, Chloe the free-ranging sloth will be able to save even more of her energy with an expanded habitat that will allow her to stay in her tree 24/7, instead of retreating to her behind-the-scenes bedroom at night.

Cool Conservation Curriculum For All: 

Always a trusted educational partner to area schools, Como’s conservation programs are coming back in full force this year. Thanks to your support, Como has the resources it needs to relaunch a second grade field trip program. This summer, as Como’s popular summer camp programs resume, Como Friends funding will also support camp scholarships to ensure that families have access to Como’s cool conservation programs.

Helping the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory Grow:

Over the years, your contributions to Como Friends have helped to keep many of Como’s best horticultural traditions growing, from the fantastic Holiday Flower Show on display this month in the Sunken Garden, to the continued transformation of the Charlotte Partridge Ordway Japanese Garden. This year, your contributions are helping preserve and protect Como’s extraordinary horticultural collections, with a new security system for Como’s valued bonsai collection, a new lighting system in the North Garden, and a new database that helps Como’s horticulturists keep track of all the specimens in Como’s beautiful gardens.

The rainforest habitat of Tropical Encounters was reenergized by a complete soil replacement, while a new sound system will help improve the visitor experience throughout the Conservatory. As part of Como’s continued conservation efforts, your support is also helping to implement a new composting system to save time and energy, turning last year’s plant material into rich compost, right at Como. Your support also helped the Conservatory launch a new integrated pest management system, deploying beneficial bugs throughout Como’s garden to further reduce the use of pesticides. 

Free Admission for All:

Most important, your support for Como Friends helped Como Park Zoo & Conservatory make a full return to traditional operations this year, welcoming more than 1.75 million visitors—and counting. Thank you for all you do to support the natural wonders that bring our community together at Como Park Zoo & Conservatory!

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