Phil Frost began his zoo career in 1982 in Springfield, Illinois, and has since served as director of zoos in Tennessee, Illinois, Indiana and most recently in Louisiana at BREC’s Baton Rouge Zoo, where he completed his 18th year as director in January.
On March 24, Frost visited the Rotary Club of Zachary to share news about zoo programs, exhibits, animals and mentioned a campaign underway to potentially move the zoo.
“We’re meeting tonight about it,” Frost said on Thursday. “The hope is that we can maximize visitors to the zoo and modernize it, but the reality is, to make the Baton Rouge Zoo a ‘zoo of the future,’ massive changes and possibly more than $100 million is needed. That’s much more than we receive in funding as one of the many parks in the BREC system.”
Frost said the zoo is still mourning the loss of two adult female giraffes, Hope, 24, and Mopani, 30, who died on March 19.
Hope, who was treated for a recurring front leg problem over the past eight years, sustained a front-leg injury, and Mopani, who got into a scuffle with a male giraffe named Roan, sustained serious injuries from which she never recovered, Frost said.
“The average lifespan for giraffes is 19.5 years. So, these were like two 92-year-old people who had fallen,” Frost said.
An audit was done to ensure zoo staff and veterinarians did all they could to save the giraffes, he said. A necropsy was performed by Dr. Fabio Del Piero, a pathologist with the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine. The results are pending.
Though the Baton Rouge Zoo welcomes an average of 250,000 guests annually, most of those visitors are not the zoo’s closest neighbors, he said.
According to the zoo’s ZIP code tracking system and neighborhood surveys, the majority of visitors are families traveling from Baton Rouge, Denham Springs, Zachary and northwest Ascension Parish.
Major renovations in recent years have included: the George Felton Jr. Veterinary Hospital, the Capital One Bank Pavilion, L’aquarium de Louisiane, Safari Playground, the Flamingo Cove, Otter Pond, Parrot Paradise, Giants of the Islands, Conservation Plaza and Realm of the Tiger.
Programs and events include Zippity Zoo Fest, the annual spring festival and birthday celebration featuring a free children’s village with giant inflatables. This event is scheduled for Saturday and Sunday and will feature music, bands, facepainting, an “edzoocation” station and more.
Adults and teens pay $8.75 to attend, seniors, $7.75; children 2 to 12, $5.75; and youth aged 1 and under, admitted free.
Additional programs include Boo at the Zoo, Brew at the Zoo, Zoo and Me Morning, Party for the Planet, Twilight Tours, Safari Night, Wildlife Safari Theatre, Zoo Krewe, Breakfast with the Animals and spring and summer camps.
For information about annual train passes, membership packages, field trips, wildlife safaris and more, visit brzoo.org.