Donor Impact

Enriching Animal Encounters

We strive to provide exceptional experiences for visitors to deepen their relationships with nature and to cultivate future stewards of the natural world. Our Animal Ambassadors are central to these efforts, and over the past year, we are excited to have initiated a comprehensive plan to enrich and enlarge our animals’ presence in the Great Hall.

Learning Opportunities

By providing new, state-of-the-art housing and more opportunities to interact directly with the animals, we are significantly increasing learning opportunities for visitors. Animals are sensitive to changes in their environments and are an important gauge of the health of the ecosystems we all share. As part of our education team, they help us provide information about habitat concerns and other issues facing many species today.

Emerson’s New Home

Though we’re in the first phases of implementation, big changes have already taken place. Thanks to an anonymous donor, the Center’s beloved Snapping Turtle, Emerson, has a new home! At 530 gallons—nearly double the size of his previous tank—Emerson’s new digs feature a river rock substrate, a boulder-like basking platform, and a waterfall filter system. By mimicking a natural environment, we’re providing Emerson with a healthy, enriching habitat, while also giving visitors a better look at the behavior of his wild counterparts.

More Animal Interactions

Over the course of the year, visitors have also had more opportunities to interact with our entire Animal Ambassador team in the Great Hall. In 2018, Nature Ambassador volunteers spent 675 hours fostering personal interactions between our animals and nearly 10,000 visitors! Today, a visit to our Great Hall can include feeling the smooth skin of one of our Corn Snakes, getting face-to-face with Boxy the Box Turtle, or marveling over our Blue-tongued Skink, Grover.

These initiatives have brought renewed energy to our Great Hall, and there are more exciting changes to come. The majority of our Animal Ambassadors currently spend their “off” hours in a private location, but our goal is to increase each animal’s visibility by building each a healthy habitat in public view. More than 100,000 visitors pass through our Great Hall annually, and the bolstered presence of our ambassadors will give us ample opportunities to spark engagement between humans and animals each year.