ST. LOUIS, MO.(KMOX)-The St. Louis Zoo sets an attendance record at the end of the year after seeing it’s summer attendance suffer due to the heat wave. The St. Louis metro area experienced 100-degree temperatures for 14 days from July through early September. A rainy spring also dampened attendance. Zoo officials say nearly 80-thousand visitors over an 11 day period in December came to the zoo. St. Louis Zoo CEO Dr. Jeffrey Bonner credits the good weather in December as one reason for the record turnout. He says on one day alone in late December, the zoo had some 19,000 visitors.
Dr. Bonner says the total attendance for 2011 was 3,019,597. The Zoo’ s all-time record attendance of 3,101,830 was set in 2009. Because the St. Louis Zoo remains one of the few free zoos in the country and a third of a it’s revenue comes from property taxes, it must rely on donations and fees. Bonner says 2011 fees from parking, rides, food and gift shop purchases totaled $22 million dollars.
Dr. Bonner says he didn’t think the zoo would hit the three million visitor mark. But he says 2011 was also a great year for their conservation mission with the first-ever captive breeding of the endangered Ozark hellbender, several births including an African lion, an Asian elephant, a black rhino, eight gazelles, a Grevy’s zebra and two addax calves– all endangered species.
And the outlook for 2012? Dr. Bonner says he knows many will expect the zoo to hit 3.1 million visitors! He says visitors can expect the Sea Lion Sound exhibit to open. It will feature an underwater viewing tunnel, expanded saltwater pools and a new, 850-seat sea lion arena.
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