I am writing to set the record straight on the new elephant exhibit and the other projects at the Oregon Zoo funded by the 2008 voter-approved bond and to express my dismay at WW's unfortunate portrayal of the zoo and its governing agency, Metro [Rogue of the Week, WW, April 20, 2011]. By misrepresenting the status of these projects you do a disservice to the caring residents of the region who voted in support of the zoo and its conservation work.

Here are the facts: The zoo is developing a 20-year master plan to make the best use of public funds by considering future needs as we develop current projects. We are carefully considering the best use of every inch of our modest sized campus. We are thoughtfully planning the order in which we construct new exhibits and upgrade electrical and plumbing systems. This is important because while all of this construction is going on we will continue to provide a delightful and inspiring experience for the 1.6 million visitors who enjoy the zoo each year.

Our new veterinary medical center is currently being built and is on time and on budget. Zoo visitors can see its construction near the Family Farm. This new medical center will give our veterinary team the facilities they need to provide the top-notch care we demand for all of our animals. The elephant, polar bear, primate and condor exhibits and the conservation education center, as well as numerous water and energy conservation projects funded by the 2008 bond, are currently under design and constitute Phase 1 of the 20-year plan. The designs will be finished this fall and the exhibits will be built over the next six to 10 years. To save water and power and improve our overall sustainability, we are replacing worn and outdated equipment across the zoo. One such project, a new filtration system at the penguin exhibit, will be completed in just over a month and will save millions of gallons of water each year.

We aren't doing all of this behind closed doors. WW was invited along with the public to the two open houses we held in late March and early April, where all of our plans were on display and participants discussed the improvements we're making with our animal care staff, educators and managers and gave us feedback. We'll hold more open houses in the future and I hope you and your readers will come see for yourselves—and talk to us about—the changes at the zoo. We maintain current information about the bond program work on our website at

The care we provide our animals—Packy, our elephant herd and all of our zoo residents—is our highest priority. Zoo staff can't wait to see our animals in new, larger habitats with expanded views, all-day access to the outdoors and opportunities to make choices about how and where they spend their day. That is what voters provided when they supported the bond.

We value dialogue, and we appreciate different perspectives. I believe in honest and transparent communication and hope WW will accept my invitation to meet with me to discuss our future vision and plans. I feel you will find we are using our funds wisely and for the welfare of our animals. There are plenty of real rogues who are deserving of exposure and shame. The Oregon Zoo is not one of them. I look forward to working with WW on accurate coverage of the exciting changes coming to the zoo.

Kim Smith
Director, Oregon Zoo

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Submit to: 2220 NW Quimby St., Portland, OR 97210.
Fax: (503) 243-1115, Email:

Fax: (503) 243-1115, Email: