Contact: Mike McClanahan

ASHEBORO N.C. — N.C. Zoological Society Board directors agreed at their April 23rd meeting to ask the N.C. legislature to provide $6 million to expand the polar bear exhibit, construct a children’s nature zoo, and fund planning for improvements to the African Pavilion exhibit. If the State comes through with this funding the Zoo Society will provide an additional $4 million in private donations.

This emphasis on state capital funding builds on an effort the Board made last year when the Zoo Society provided personnel financial resources and grass roots support to keep the zoo’s needs in front of lawmakers. The state responded with $3.4 million in capital appropriations to the zoo to construct barns for African plains animals and a storage facility for the horticulture department.

“As a private nonprofit organization dedicated to the zoo and conservation we can be far more visible and energetic in our appeals to legislators than the zoo can be”, said Russ Williams, N.C. Zoo Society executive director. “And as a nonprofit we measure success in far broader terms than simply a financial net of our own revenues minus expenses. The important thing is that the zoo got the funds to take care of its animals and facilities.” The appeals Williams referred to involved dedicating a full-time staff member to make legislators aware of the zoo’s needs and the zoo’s importance to North Carolina. The Zoo Society also provided printed materials and other administrative help and encouraged the Board of Directors friends and Zoo Society members to join the effort.“The fact that more than 1,500 Society members across the state contacted their legislators on behalf of the zoo during one 24-hour period last session demonstrates the broad support this effort enjoys among our membership”, Williams said. “It also demonstrates that we truly are a society of members dedicated to the zoo and the cause of conservation.”

Williams added, however, that Zoo Society directors remain firmly committed to exemplary stewardship of the direct donations entrusted to them and to strong financial performance and growth. He pointed to the Society’s promise to match state appropriations with $4 million as evidence that responsible, private support will always be vital to the future of the N.C. Zoo.

Williams also pointed out that Charity Navigator awarded the Zoo Society a four-star rating for its management of donor funds. Charity Navigator is an independent organization that evaluates the financial health of America’s largest charities. A four-star rating the highest awarded means that the Zoo Society’s fiscal management exceeds industry standards and outperforms most charities in its cause. “One of our primary missions is to support the N.C. Zoo”, Williams said. “Last year during the legislative session we were able to create a renewed awareness and interest in our zoo’s capital needs and helped secure state capital appropriations for the zoo. We will continue to encourage legislators to stay on track with that renewed support of the State Zoo.”

Also at the April 23rd meeting the board elected Therence O. Pickett of Greensboro to serve as a new board director. Pickett is chief legal officer for Volvo Trucks North America. He previously served as deputy general counsel and associate general counsel with Volvo and was a senior attorney with the law firm of McGuire, Woods, Battle, & Boothe. The North Carolina Zoological Society is a private non-profit organization that supports the N.C. Zoo and conservation.

The zoo is an agency of the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources William G. Ross Jr. Secretary; Michael F. Easley Governor.