Blank Park Zoo
USINFO | 2013-08-05 16:50

Blank Park Zoo is a 22-acre (8.9 ha) zoological park on the south side of Des Moines, Iowa near historic Fort Des Moines. The zoo is a member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and is the only accredited zoo in Iowa. The mission of the Blank Park Zoo is to inspire an appreciation of the natural world through conservation, education and recreation.

In 1963, Mr. A.H. Blank donated $150,000 for the construction of a children's zoo on decommissioned Fort Des Moines property. The Des Moines Children’s Zoo was officially opened on May 8, 1966. It was originally designed around nursery rhymes and included a castle with moat, a replica of Noah's Ark, petting zoo and miniature railroad.

Over the next 16 years the city failed to make improvements to the zoo and was on the verge of closing until in 1981 a group of civic minded business leaders formed the Blank Park Zoo Foundation to help save the zoo. The Foundations number one goal was to provide financial support for capital improvements, animal acquisitions and promotional and marketing activities.

The Foundation succeeded by forming a partnership with the City of Des Moines that resulted in a $1.8 million dollar bond referendum, as well as an additional $1.4 million dollars from the community. Finally at the end of 1982 the zoo closed for some much needed renovations.

On May 17, 1986 the zoo reopened, featuring geographic themed exhibits with spacious, naturally landscaped environments. In 1987 the zoo was accredited by the AZA.

Starting in 1997, The Blank Park Zoo Conservation Committee has raised funds for a wide variety of worldwide conservation projects. The primary projects of the Committee must be international, must focus on protecting animals or their natural ecosystems, and must also have some tie to the Blank Park Zoo. Money is collected through various means such as children's face painting, special event raffles, and coin donation buckets.
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