Posted by Terrence Dalton on Sep 21, 2022
The Rotary Club of Akron had an amazing presentation by Doug Piekarz, CEO of the Akron Zoo during our Tuesday, September 20, 2022, weekly meeting.
I encourage anyone reading this article who couldn’t attend the meeting in person, or on Zoom to follow the link (click here) to the recording for a great presentation.  Some of the highlights of Mr. Piekarz presentation is included below.
Akron Zoo mission: 
Connecting your life to wildlife while inspiring lifelong learning and conservation action:  Mission triangle:  Community, Education and Conservation - any decision we make must connect with the three elements of the mission triangle.
Humble Beginnings: 
Opened May 17, 1953, as the Akron Children’s Zoo with 12 nursery rhyme themed exhibits covering one acre.  Originally was known as Perkins Woods, and the Akron Natural History Museum.  The nursery themed exhibits were built to encourage attendance at the Natural History Museum.  The Akron Zoo was incorporated in 1953, 70 years celebration next year.
  • 1979 – First in the nation of a public/private partnership.  The Zoo became a private not for profit charity and changed its name to the Akron Zoological Park, Animal habitats were added, guest amenities were improved and in 1989 the zoo was accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA).
  • To ensure the sustainability of the Akron Zoo, Summit County voters approved a property tax in 2000.  This successful levy campaign allowed the Zoo to make capital and operational improvements, increase the number of animals, more habitats and more opportunities to learn and the zoo was open year-round. Improvements made since 2000 include:  Barnhardt Family Welcome Center; Lehner Family Zoo Gardens; Penguin Point; Legends of the Wild Komodo Kingdom Education Center; Conservation Carousel; Mike and Mary Stark Grizzly Ridge; Curious Creatures; Pride of Africa; Wild Asia and has grown from 33 to 56 exhibits,
2019 by the numbers:
Akron Zoo is one of the most visited attractions in Summit County
  • 402,143 on site attendance
  • 91,456 participants in education programs
  • 35,404 participants in field trips
  • 12,878 member households
  • 46 species survival plans on site
  • 21 field conservation projects
  • 2 extinct species (in the wild) call Akron Zoo home
  • 1 of 237 AZA accredited zoos worldwide
Return on Investment:
  • For $1 of public support that the Akron Zoo has received since 2011, it has generated nearly $8 in impact.
  • $75.6 million invested, $581 million returned.
  • Komodo Kingdom – First LEED certified building in Summit County
  • Komodo Café – First 4-Star Green Restaurant in Ohio and any U.S. zoo
  • Reduced water usage by 80% over 5 years
  • Composted over 3.6 million pounds of organic waste in four years
  • Grizzly Ridge – Certified LEED Silver
  • Installed composter – Big Hanna
Conservation Programs: 
In 2019 the Akron Zoo supported 21 conservation projects or programs, both locally and globally. 
  • Seven of the projects are U.S. Based.  Five in Ohio and two in other States. 
  • The Akron Zoo supported three projects in South America,
  • Six in Asia,
  • Two in Africa. 
  • The remaining three projects work on a global scale.
A Community Partner:
The zoo’s goal is to be a strong community partner.  Their latest efforts have focused on supporting our community during the COVID pandemic:
  • 60 Facebook Live educational broadcasts to support educators and parents.  (Now on YouTube)
  • Hosted free meal distributions
  • Hosted Red Cross blood drives
  • Donated 1,400 N95 masks to healthcare providers
  • Staff and volunteers made over 3,000 masks and distributed them to schoolchildren and the SCPH department
All About the Animals:
Grown from 57 to 61 animal habitats
Three new experiences opened since 2016:
  • Curious Creatures – Summer 2017
  • Pride of Africa – Summer 2019
  • Wild Asia – Summer 2021
Animal Residents:
  • Number of animals cared for has grown from 2,381 animals (239 species) to 2611 animals (252 species) since 2016.
  • 439 individual animal births since 2016
  • 53 species survival plans on site
  • 2 extinct species (in the wild) call Akron Zoo home
A Perfect Inspection:
In June 2021 the Akron Zoo became 1 of 3 zoos in 50 years to receive a perfect accreditation inspection.
To learn more about the Akron Zoo and all that it has to offer, check out their website at
Terry Dalton
2022-23 Akron Club Secretary & Scholarship Chair