Together we create powerful forces for nature.



Whether you are a member, donor or a visitor, your steady support is advancing Woodland Park Zoo to a new chapter in its history. As each story in this impact report demonstrates, your effect is palpable.

A record-breaking 1.35 million guests last year showed the high value people place on the zoo’s role in our community. More up-close animal experiences, the opening of the Alvord Broadleaf Theater and Molbak’s Butterfly Garden, along with sold-out summer concerts and membership growth all helped to connect new and younger audiences, as well as our long-time friends, to our mission.

In a region evolving as rapidly as ours, we are compelled to ensure that all among us have and enjoy access to nature. Thanks to zoo supporters and to residents of Seattle and King County, we are reaching more children and families from diverse communities, and sparking further interest in careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math and, of course, in conservation. In fact, several teens inspired by zoo experiences flexed their leadership muscles as participants addressing environmental issues on key local and international panels.

Technology is improving how we study and protect animals in the wild. Doing even more to save wildlife is very important to our guests: over five years, they have donated $1.2 million to our field conservation efforts, beyond their admission fees, during zoo visits. Two of those efforts, among our longest running, also received major national and international recognition. These and other positive impact stories reached an astonishing 34 million people through the zoo’s social media channels.

Such progress profoundly shapes the future of your zoo. Your support is transforming this 92-acre urban oasis, to better serve regional needs and build a global movement for conservation. We are grateful to you, to our 1,000 volunteers and to our Board of Directors, past and present, for your commitment to our mission.

Ultimately, we will change humanity’s relationship with nature. Your hopes, dreams and passions light our way. Thank you for being our forces for nature.



Alejandro Grajal, PhD
President and CEO

Jeffrey W. Leppo
Chair, Board of Directors

Laurie Stewart
Immediate Past Chair, Board of Directors



Creating Empathy for Wildlife

Our future as humans hinges on having empathy for all living beings. Because up-close experiences deepen the animal-human bond, we expanded our Ambassador Animal program and unveiled, adjacent to Zoomazium, a popular, new resource for connecting with animals—the Alvord Broadleaf Theater. Zoomazium, an award-winning, regional resource sparking appreciation for nature through play, celebrated 10 years of service to 3,600,000 early learners and adults!

Increasing Access to Nature

Wildlife experiences and hands-on nature and science learning are most transformative when engaging the broadest range of students, children and families. With admission, transportation or other assistance the zoo served 81,300 people from diverse communities who otherwise might not be able to afford a visit—equal to 1,130 full school buses! The 33 percent increase over five years reflects our identity as a welcoming and inclusive community resource.

“Thank you for helping Youth Eastside Services’ clients experience the zoo! Our youth and their families so appreciate the opportunity to enjoy animals and learn exciting new things without having to worry about affording admission.”

– Youth Eastside Services


Yola's First Year: Growing Up Gorilla

Your support made Yola’s first year a milestone of well-being. Relying on deep species expertise, our animal care team very patiently and creatively supported first-time-mom, Nadiri, to develop the maternal skills needed to bond with her daughter, strengthening family ties among the whole western lowland gorilla troop. Her story so moved our guests, they built the zoo’s first online baby book, #GrowWithYola, sharing her wondrous journey of growing up gorilla and the plight of her species in the wild with the broader community.

New Chapter for the Zoo

As our world evolves, so do our aspirations to catalyze ever more people to stand up for endangered species and habitats. In May, the zoo welcomed Alejandro Grajal, PhD, as new president and CEO. His 25 years of leadership in conservation, animal welfare, research and science learning, and his life-long passion for engaging all communities in protecting biodiversity, have made him a leading voice on the modern zoo’s charge to mobilize all people into positive forces for nature!

“Being an amphibian monitor was an amazing opportunity for me to go out into nature to collect the very data that will be used to protect the ecosystems I want to see conserved!”

– Sophie Yasuda, ZooCorps teen volunteer and Amphibian Monitoring Citizen Science participant


Harnessing Technology for Conservation

Zoo scientists designed and launched the Northwest’s first high-tech scent lure dispenser— a transformative device that has quadrupled detections of extremely elusive North Cascades’ wolverines. In another first, our Zoohackathon partnered local coders and scientists to design apps to combat illegal wildlife trade. Meanwhile, expanded Wi-Fi and other new software improved guest access to online science learning and zoo apps. All thanks to Microsoft Research, Idaho Fish & Game, Vulcan, Inc., Google, Socrata, UW Center for Conservation Biology, U.S. State Department, City of Seattle, Cisco Systems, Inc., Microsoft and Tableau!

A Rewarding Comeback for the Northwest

Protecting endangered Northwest species is urgent business, but it requires long-game thinking and collaborating. For innovative community engagement and achieving a slow but steady 566 percent increase in a once-vanishing western pond turtle population, Woodland Park Zoo’s 25-year conservation partnership with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and partner Oregon Zoo, earned the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ top North American Conservation Award, an honor equivalent to an Oscar in the species conservation profession.



Life is Full of Surprises

Lilly Kassos was full of surprises.

From driving around West Seattle in her little red sports car, to opening up a hair salon and becoming an extremely successful businesswoman, to exploring her talents in Japanese Sumi art, Lilly kept her friends wondering what she would do next!

Lilly grew up in the First Hill area of Seattle with her parents, Frank and Alexandra Kassos, where they settled when they emigrated from Greece in the 1920’s. She later attended the Annie Wright School in Tacoma. Lilly always remained proud of her heritage, hosting Greek themed events and dinners in her later years.

She co-owned a lumberyard in Burien before her entrepreneurial skills led her to becoming a hairstylist where she developed a fiercely loyal following. Lilly was known as being extremely creative and talented, skills which she directed to her love of art after selling her salon business in the 1980’s. She became a dedicated and involved volunteer at the Seattle Art Museum and the Frye Art Museum, and took many art classes with a specialty in Sumi painting, a technique using black ink and precise brush strokes.

In addition to her love of art, Lilly was an avid golfer and reader, and enjoyed boating on Puget Sound with her friends. She was also a going concern in her chapter of the Red Hat Society leading the twelve members on lots of fun outings (Western clubs and dancing!) as well as participating in local parades.

She was known by her Red Hat Society sisters as being spunky, feisty and always up for a new experience.

Many of Lilly’s friends described her love of cats throughout her life. She adored her Silver Short Hair cats and they became a part of her family over the years. She was amazed at how clever they were and how intuitive they could be, taking on human characteristics. Her wonder and awe of cats extended to big cats and she was able to see them up close on safari in Africa – a trip of a lifetime for Lilly. This admiration of cats of all sizes is something she shared with her father and which her friends thought probably originated with visits to Woodland Park Zoo with him as a young child.

Thank you Lilly, for thinking of us and remembering the zoo in your estate plans. Your gift dedicated to the care and welfare of big cats in honor of your father, was a true surprise. And for that, we at Woodland park Zoo are so grateful.

“Lilly’s unique capacity to embody courage, straight-forwardness, progressive thinking, compassion, authenticity, creativity, humor, and strength of spirit was a gift to those who were fortunate to have known her.”  -- Judy Derbes Leyden

Special thanks to Sandra Newmaster, Peggy Rafn, Judy Derbes, Leyden, Peggy Kemper, Jeffrey Kemper and Marian Herrin for sharing your memories of your dear friend, Lilly Kassos.


Connections with Animals Deepen Over a Lifetime

Growing up in Seattle, Patty Edwards recalls fond memories of her childhood visits to Woodland Park Zoo. Never owning pets in her youth, Patty’s deepest bonds with animals—felines, in particular—were forged later in life. These close ties, sparked by her dear cat companions and gathering with good friends at Jungle Party, drew her back to the zoo as an adult. Her belief in the importance of human connections with animals and these life-affirming relationships eventually inspired her to become a member of WPZ’s LionHearts Society.

A lover of cats, wild and domestic, striped and spotted, big and small, Patty finds great joy in giving to Woodland Park Zoo during her lifetime and ensuring the zoo’s strong future through our inclusion in her estate plans. Most recently she helped us build the tiger nursery in Banyan Wilds, eagerly anticipating (yet awaiting, semi-patiently!) the day when the first litter of Malayan tiger cubs will be born in the new exhibit.

Truly at home among animals, Patty’s connections with them have been a great source of solace and friendship, even in times of stifling loss. Upon the passing of her beloved husband Bob, Patty’s feline companions were a North Star that helped her heart find healing. On her frequent trips to the zoo, she marvels at the countless behavioral similarities between her domestic pair Tiffany and Tabatha and our much larger Malayan tigers Liem, Eko and Olan, whose wild counterparts the zoo protects in Malaysia.

Coupled with her desire to ensure our zoo and its species-saving work flourishes for the benefit of future generations, Patty believes strongly in making unrestricted charitable gifts. In her giving to her three favorite local charities, Overlake Hospital Medical Center, Pacific Northwest Ballet and Woodland Park Zoo, she considers it paramount to build strong levels of trust, which underpin confidence in her giving without any particular expectations.

“I find great happiness in all of my connections with the hospital, the ballet and the zoo,” says Patty, “yet I certainly don’t know how to run them. I trust the experts to utilize my gifts where they really need the funds. To me, this is the most important way I can make a difference and enjoy sharing in the impacts during my lifetime.”

Woodland Park Zoo remains deeply grateful to Patty for the trust she has placed in us as a beneficiary of her generosity, her belief in the importance of human animal connections and her shared hope for our first litter of Malayan tiger cubs…one day.


If you would like to help ensure that future generations benefit from the wonder that is Woodland Park Zoo, please contact Sarah Valentine at 206.548.2624 or to learn more about ways to remember our zoo in your estate plans.





Our Mission

Woodland Park Zoo saves animals and their habitats through conservation leadership and engaging experiences, inspiring people to learn, care and act.


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5500 Phinney Ave. N., Seattle, WA 98103   |  206.548.2500  |