ASHEBORO-Despite a slumping economy that has affected the tourism industry nationwide, the North Carolina Zoo was able to maintain its 2008-2009 fiscal year attendance slightly above the previous year.

A total of 729,615 visitors passed through the zoo gates between July 1, 2008, and June 30, 2009, making it the sixth largest number of annual visitors in zoo history. The visitor total for the previous fiscal year ('07-'08) was 729,500. The fiscal year attendance record of 934,455 was set in '93-'94 when the zoo opened its 200-acre North America region.

Zoo officials credit multiple factors for holding the attendance line during a very bumpy economic calendar. Two new attractions, a giraffe feeding station and a honey bee exhibit, opened at the park during the spring. In addition the park benefited from "staycations," a new tourism term describing the trend for families to take one-day trips instead of multi-day, longer-distance vacations during these tough economic times.

The month of April 2009 was a particularly strong one for the zoo with 144,032 patrons--the second highest April total in zoo history. It marked an increase of more than 37,000 people over April 2008.

The zoo is located on Zoo Parkway (N.C. 159) six miles southeast of Asheboro off U.S. 220 and U.S. 64. Hours from April through October are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Admission is $10 for adults, $6 for children 2-12 and $8 for senior citizens 62-plus and college students. For information, call 1-800-488-0444 or visit the zoo Web site at

The zoo is an agency of the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Dee Freeman, Secretary: Beverly Eaves Perdue, Governor.