A new audit of the culture at the Oregon Zoo finds that workers, most of them temporary, are not very happy or engaged in the zoo's transformation into a "conservation organization."

Auditors from Metro, which owns the zoo, delivered their report Feb. 22.

In recent years, changes to the Zoo’s physical environment, leadership and mission have had an effect on Zoo culture. We found that progress was made to address some of the negative outcomes that can result from change, but additional work was needed to:

• Clarify conservation priorities and incorporate them into day-to-day

activities and strategic decisions.

• Assess and learn from recent changes to determine if they addressed

root causes.

• Engage employees to get input about the effectiveness of recent


• Align resources, skills and incentives after prioritizing actions to meet the zoo’s mission

It's not surprising that the zoo would experience turmoil as it tries to shift its focus and integrate new management.

A chart that has little to do with culture highlights a longtime threat to the zoo—flat attendance.

Over the past decade, the population of the metro area has grown more than 11 percent, according to Portland State University demographers.

But zoo attendance, the biggest source of funding for the organization's $35 million annual budget, is actually lower than it was 10 years ago:

The audit dinged the zoo for failing to pay sufficient attention to finances.

The Zoo identified the need to grow net resources to fund its mission. This means increasing revenue, improving efficiencies, and focusing on efforts that best support the mission. It has taken several steps to do this. However, a long-term financial plan had not been established.
Zoo executive director Don Moore said in his written response to the audit that morale is improving and he is aware of the need to address financial challenges.
“We will continue to perform robust financial planning to ensure our ability to focus resources on our important mission activities,” Moore wrote.