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President's Letter: Celebrating 100 Years of Global Wildlife Exploration

As a long-time visitor of Brookfield Zoo, I have experienced the Zoo’s power to transport individuals on an adventure to the tropical habitats of South America and Asia, an African savannah, and beyond. Few experiences can take visitors on a global wildlife excursion in a single day. But the possibility is ever present for residents of Cook County, thanks to the Brookfield Zoo.

This year, we celebrate the 100-year anniversary of one of the Forest Preserves’ closest partners, the Chicago Zoological Society, which operates the Zoo. Born out of a land donation made to the Forest Preserves in 1920 by Edith Rockefeller McCormick, the Chicago Zoological Society was chartered to manage a modern zoological park. The Brookfield Zoo opened in 1934 and has since evolved into a hub of scientific research, conservation education, and inspiration for future conservation leaders.

In their 100-year history, the Chicago Zoological Society has positioned itself as a beacon of innovation and home to many firsts in the United States, including the first zoo to exhibit pandas, and the first to welcome the successful births of a black rhinoceros, okapi and southern hairy-nosed wombat.

Since the very beginning, the Chicago Zoological Society and the Forest Preserves of Cook County have shared a special public-private partnership: Chicago Zoological Society is a private nonprofit that operates Brookfield Zoo on land owned by the Forest Preserves, and the Preserves provides the Zoo with financial support, as well.

The partnership makes sense: Both of our institutions are dedicated to preserving nature, to learning more about how the natural world works, and to providing opportunities for residents to connect to nature and to learn to love nature.

Although a walk through the Zoo may take you on a global journey, their partnership helps local wildlife, too. Veterinarian staff at Brookfield Zoo work with the Forest Preserves’ wildlife team to examine and monitor species of fish, birds and mammals to help us learn more about the health of these animals. This also helps us understand if restoration efforts are having the impact we are aiming to achieve. And the partnership doesn’t stop there—we work with the Zoo on research, public programming and educational initiatives, too. As we mark Chicago Zoological Society’s centennial and reflect on their contributions to Cook County, I want to congratulate the society on this significant anniversary and thank them for their continued partnership.