Philadelphia Zoo Receives $6M Grant from the William Penn Foundation to Blaze a New Trail

Grant will support innovative projects and economic growth

September 16, 2013--The Philadelphia Zoo is pleased to announce a $6 million grant from the William Penn Foundation, whose philanthropy is dedicated to improving the quality of life in the Greater Philadelphia region by investing in great public spaces to serve the cultural and recreational needs of the City’s expanding urban core.
Through the development of the Zoo’s first-in-the-world animal trail system – including Big Cat crossing, an overhead passageway allowing the Zoo’s big cats to travel and explore far from their usual habitats scheduled to open in spring 2014 – the Zoo continues to enhance the area through endeavors that have national and international impact.
“This new trail system and other improvements will redefine what it means to be a ‘world-class’ zoo,” said City of Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter. “As the Philadelphia Zoo’s national reputation rises, it continues to anchor the historic West Fairmount Park neighborhood and serve the citizens of our city by providing a unique learning experience for youth and adults.”
The innovative animal trail initiative offers opportunities for long-distance travel and a greater variety in the environments for the Zoo’s animals – transforming the Zoo experience for both animals and guests alike.
Other initiatives funded by the grant include: Development of an earned revenue/guest experience master plan that aligns with the innovative, new animal experience and grows earned revenue capacity to support continued excellence and innovation; creation of a plan to expand,  diversity and drive engagement of the Zoo’s donor base while also increasing internal capacity to support this growth and transformation; and completion of the fundraising campaign for KidZooU, the Zoo’s recently opened $32 million state-of-the-art Hamilton Family Children’s Zoo and Faris Family Education Center.
“We are delighted to continue the transformation of Philadelphia Zoo,” says Zoo President and CEO Vikram H. Dewan. “This is the most exciting and dynamic time, with as much potential for innovation, accomplishment and impact, as at any time in our recent history. This transformative contribution from the William Penn Foundation supports our vision of offering one-of-kind animal exhibits, strong conservation leadership and outstanding guest experiences making Philadelphia Zoo THE zoo of the future,” says Dewan.
“As the Zoo and the city’s stature continue to rise, this new, imaginative Zoo experience will also contribute toward realizing a long-term vision for West Fairmount Park as a dynamic public space and destination,” added Laura Sparks, Chief Philanthropy Officer at the William Penn Foundation. “We are proud to partner with the Zoo in developing a vision of a more active West Fairmount Park.”
According to Shawn McCaney, Senior Program Officer at the William Penn Foundation, the grant to the Zoo represents a key element in a broader investment strategy in West Fairmount Park that includes support to the Fairmount Park Conservancy for planning recreation amenities adjacent to the Parkside neighborhood, funding to the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society for planning to rehabilitate the Welsh Fountain, and support through the Local Initiatives Support Corporation to develop the Mantua Walking Trail that will better connect the neighborhood to the Zoo and the park. “These investments aim to ensure that we develop high quality park-wide amenities oriented to the play and recreation needs of neighborhood residents that are also welcoming to all visitors. All will benefit from increased activation of the park through maximizing community use and regional visitation.”

America's first zoo and one of the region's foremost conservation organizations, the Philadelphia Zoo is home to nearly 1,300 animals, many rare and endangered. By connecting people with wildlife, the Philadelphia Zoo creates joyful discovery and inspires action for animals and habitats. The Philadelphia region’s leading family destination, the Zoo welcomed more than 1.2 million visitors last year. The Philadelphia Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. To become a member, donate or to purchase tickets please visit