Donor Stories



Jeff & Robin Leppo

Dedicated Zoo & Wildlife Conservation Advocates


“We sincerely believe that all animals in the world today are affected by and under human influence, and it’s our duty to care for and protect them.”

Jeff is truly passionate about environmental and wildlife conservation. His practice as an attorney for nearly 40 years focused on environmental and natural resources counseling, permitting and litigation, helping clients navigate the intersection between law, science and policy in endangered species, climate change, marine mammal, oceans and Arctic issues. Over twelve years ago, Jeff brought his expertise and passion to Woodland Park Zoo’s Board of Directors, and has served in a wide range of positions, including as Chair of the Board in 2017-2018. Jeff was very active in bringing Alejandro Grajal to WPZ as our current President and CEO, and was also instrumental in helping to create the Zoo’s innovative 2018-2022 Strategic Plan.

Jeff and his wife Robin are both committed animal enthusiasts (among other animals, they have three, yes, three snakes at home—a red-tailed boa named Wanda, a ball python named Nitro, and a yellow-orange corn snake named Sunflower) and have passed on the importance of learning about and caring for animals and their habitats to their three children. Over the years, they have travelled as a family to such far-reaching corners of the world as the savannahs of Africa and the beaches of the Galapagos Islands. The Leppos have always felt that it is crucial to keep learning about animal behavior, care and science, and to work to protect animals and their habitats in the wild. “We sincerely believe that all animals in the world today are affected by and under human influence, and it’s our duty to care for and protect them.”

Jeff is keen to see the zoo’s Strategic Plan implemented over the next few years. He feels strongly about getting the message across that WPZ is a conservation organization first and foremost, and is excited about the emphasis on extraordinary animal care and animal experiences, diversity and inclusion, and empathy. Having had the opportunity to observe over the years how the animal keepers are so attentive to the needs of the animals in their care, as well as the dedication of staff working on our many wildlife conservation projects in the Northwest and across the world, confirms for Jeff and Robin that we are headed in the right direction and well on the way to building the “zoo of the future.”

Now that he is recently retired as a partner from the Stoel Rives law firm, Jeff has been augmenting his work with the Board by working as a volunteer on several research projects at the Zoo. Working with our Wildlife Conservation Team, he has been exploring what wildlife conservation work is being performed or sponsored in the Pacific Northwest region by Washington’s tribal nations. Jeff has also performed an analysis of the community/citizen science and conservation volunteer opportunities available in the region to help find more ways to engage our zoo audience in actively participating in conservation. Peter Zahler, our VP of Conservation, has enjoyed having Jeff working with the team immensely. “He’s a joy to collaborate with and consistently has great ideas and suggestions to help support our conservation efforts. It’s an honor to work alongside Jeff.”

Jeff has been a true “behind the scenes” leader for the zoo and continues to contribute to make things happen. “There are so many ways to engage with the zoo, from participating on committees and attending events, to volunteering on-grounds. When you are passionate about the mission of the zoo and can devote your time to it, there is so much potential. And right now, Robin and I really feel Woodland Park Zoo is the best institution in this community for us to invest our time and energy. Truthfully, we are getting far more back from these experiences than we are giving.” Thank you, Jeff and Robin, for your years of dedication to our zoo and our mission—we have benefited from your generosity in so many ways.


Jeffrey Barber & Effie Tuttle

Goats, Camera, Action!


“I treat our contributions to the zoo like an index fund for goodwill towards animals and to help ensure that we are all still here.”

Jeff Barber and Effie Tuttle can now tell you anything that you would ever want to know about raising goats. After rescuing kid triplets in 2016 and caring for them tirelessly on their Bainbridge Island property, they are experts on everything from horn protection to what kind of browse they eat in your yard (roses are always a favorite, but not rhododendrons which are highly toxic). Roslin, Adama and Saul—they are huge Battlestar Galactica fans—came into Jeff and Effie’s lives and although already genuine animal lovers, the baby goats endeared themselves to the couple and “truly unlocked our hearts to animals.” Tending to the goats gave them the opportunity to be up close and personal with these delightful animals. “Seeing them in a new light you discover that their faces really do tell a story.”

Both this newfound appreciation for animals and the acquisition of an elaborate professional camera brought Jeff to Woodland Park Zoo. He wanted to try it out and take some quality photos of a variety of animals which he knew he could do at the zoo. After many shots of different parts of every animal, he started to get the hang of his new hobby. “The telephoto lens really let me get as close as possible to a number of the animals and be able to watch their expressions.” Jeff said he didn’t expect the depth and extent of the impact these quiet moments would have on him. This led him to seek out even more animal experiences and although it would seem impossible, one of his dreams was to pet a tiger. Not an easy thing to accomplish!

After spending more and more time at the zoo, Jeff and Effie were introduced to the special behind the scenes zoo tours available for purchase. They didn’t know these even existed! On their first tour their other party could not attend, so they offered the spots to a couple of unsuspecting and lucky zoo guests they met on zoo grounds enabling them all to see how the ring-tailed lemurs live. Experiencing this initial tour was “life-changing” for the couple and opened up a whole new world to them.

In June 2017, Tufani (our female giraffe) had just delivered her baby prior to our annual fundraising event, Jungle Party. Jeff was determined to bid on and win the naming rights to the zoo’s young giraffe, with “Galactica Actual” as the agreed upon choice (with Effie being a very close second!). Unfortunately, they were not the winning party for the giraffe naming package but were lucky enough to secure the Grizzly bear experience where they were licked by brothers Denali and Keema. “These tours are the best gifts we have ever given ourselves. While material things are simple to accumulate, these encounters and what they produce, are not.”

Jeff and Effie feel that the work the zoo is doing towards conservation efforts and to inspire others about the importance of nature every day is truly impressive. Ensuring that the population understands the need for biodiversity and how our ecosystems operate is vital to our survival. They are big supporters of the zoo for these very reasons. “I treat our contributions to the zoo like an index fund for goodwill towards animals and to help ensure that we are all still here.”

About the wish to pet a tiger? Jeff and Effie were indeed able to do this after securing a “vet for a day” package at Jungle Party 2018. We are so glad that the zoo was able to help make this dream come true, and we hope this will lead to many more transformative moments in the future. And in true Battlestar Galactica fashion, so say we all!


Sandi Prince

Zoo Volunteer and Foundation Board Member


“I sincerely believe it’s so important to teach the children about where things come from and how we can relate to the animals right in front of them. They can feel a sheep’s coat, and then we can teach them about all of the things sheep can produce, such as lanolin, milk and wool.””

From one farm to another …

Sandi grew up on an old family farm in Vermont and speaks fondly of the many rabbits, cattle and goats that she helped to take care of with her mother and grandfather. It was a life filled with lots of work—farm duties and canning of fruit and vegetables—and all with no indoor plumbing! She later left the farm and went on to earn a teaching degree, met her husband Dave skiing in Vermont, and eventually settled in Denver where she worked as a financial trader. Seattle ultimately became their home when Dave accepted a position at the University of Washington and Sandi assisted in the opening of a small stock brokerage house. Later Sandi pursued a career as a financial organizer focusing on assisting elders.

Having been a docent for over twenty-five years, Sandi is one of Woodland Park Zoo’s longtime volunteers. She was originally introduced to the zoo by Carol Raitt, a former volunteer, from whom she bought her house in Magnolia. “Carol took me to the zoo, and I started volunteering right after that.” After completing her intensive volunteer docent training, she set about cataloguing all of the bio facts/artifacts used in the docent program with her docent trainer, Jana Feil, “We worked on an old Apple computer for almost eight months setting up the system. An upgraded version of that format is still being used today!”

Sandi contributed in developing programming content for the original Northern Trail exhibit and the Family Farm, but these days spends most of her volunteering time at the Farm and states that this is the part of the zoo that she considers the most valuable. “The Family Farm is where children can truly get up close to the animals and even touch them.” She believes this is the cornerstone of developing empathy, kindness and respect for all animals. She remembers the years when she used to hold “Chicken Chats” near the coup with Uno and Dos, roosters who would hop up on her lap to be petted by visitors. “I sincerely believe it’s so important to teach the children about where things come from and how we can relate to the animals right in front of them. They can feel a sheep’s coat, and then we can teach them about all of the things sheep can produce, such as lanolin, milk and wool.” Educating the kids about the animals in the Farm is then a bridge to other parts of the zoo where they will find the tigers, lions and other zoo animals, she says.

Not only is Sandi a valued volunteer at the zoo, but she has taken on another role the past few years as a member of the Board of Directors for the James M. Lea Foundation. At the Foundation she helps to distribute the grants for projects across the Pacific Northwest that support Jim’s mission to educate people about this great part of the country and its important conservation issues. As an avid mountaineer and former Boeing engineer, he combined his skills to invent the popular Therm-A-Rest camping mattress. “He loved nature and enjoyed observing the animals that would pass by in his backyard that overlooked Puget Sound.” Sandi is proud to serve on the board and honor Jim’s wishes to underwrite programs that help to preserve the environment in some way.

Sandi genuinely enjoys her time and deep involvement with the zoo and feels it’s extremely important to keep the younger children coming back. It would seem that with her roots growing up on a family farm and love for teaching, Sandi is perfectly suited for this task and has truly come full circle!


Victoria Wellman


“I love learning about the animals. I know a tiny bit about each species and I learn more each time I am here.”

Sometimes you know straight from the start when something is right for you. After graduating from Northwestern University, Vicki set off on her first around the world trip, which included safaris in Kenya and Tanzania. She became hooked on traveling and knew she wanted the travel industry to be her career. Upon returning to Chicago she began working in the International Division of TWA reservations. Eventually she settled in Seattle where she accepted a position as the International Travel Manager of a prestigious agency located in downtown Seattle. Among her many prominent clients were Seattle actors, architects and designers and of course, Woodland Park Zoo. She recalls setting up the travel plans for two of the zoo’s spider monkeys to travel from Seattle to Copenhagen, Denmark flying in business class on SAS with their keeper (who then flew coach on the return trip home)! Vicki planned many expeditions for zoo members as well. She worked alongside zoo director David Hancocks and organized group tours to Australia, Africa, India and China.

After discovering they had much more in common than travel, Vicki married one of her longtime clients, Howard Wellman, in 1987. They set out to enjoy new adventures together—one of them being attending Jungle Party. At their first event together in the summer of 1988, they purchased the “Bathe an Elephant” zoo experience for five people. Vicki and Howard had the best time with their friends giving Bamboo a bath, even though their work was all for naught as Bamboo promptly went out and showered herself with dirt as they watched from their dining spot in Peacock Plaza! Vicki says that she and Howard celebrated many birthdays at the zoo with a number of special behind the scenes animal experiences including gorillas, giraffes and dinner “with” the Grizzly bears. The big cats, especially the tigers, were Howard’s favorite. Sadly, Howard passed away in 2014 before he could see the results of their gift to the new tiger exhibit. Vicki attended the opening ceremonies of Banyan Wilds with her sons, Brian and Brandon, and says that it was a thrilling moment to be able to see the magnificent, handsome creatures up close and knows that Howard would have been so pleased.

Vicki’s long history with Woodland Park Zoo has continued in her role as a volunteer ambassador since 2015. She says that it was a natural thing to do and has made her feel closer to Howard as she remembers their many fun times at the zoo, as well as being a wonderful form of “cheap therapy.” The feelings of peacefulness and connection walking these beautiful grounds is really priceless according to Vicki.

Taking on volunteering as an ambassador has enabled Vicki to relate to many different guests on grounds and she particularly enjoys meeting children and answering their many questions. “I love learning about the animals. I know a tiny bit about each species and I learn more each time I am here.” Vicki is also able to display her extensive animal pin collection on her zoo ambassador vest showcasing her souvenirs from Antarctica, Africa, Nepal, India, and multiple countries in Europe. “It’s a fun way to engage the children—and adults too—as they try to choose a favorite.”

Vicki is very active in her local Mill Creek Rotary Club (she has just recently accepted the position of President Elect), various community associations and her university sorority, Kappa Kappa Gamma (she’s a “sister” to Meghan Marklel!). Vicki also donates zoo tours to local auctions and clubs in Mill Creek. “It’s always fun to see how much a zoo tour will raise for charity and I love to show off the zoo as well!” Vicki is grateful to Woodland Park Zoo for the multitude of special memories and learning experiences she has gained here and we, in turn, are so grateful for her long history with us and all that she has contributed to make this a better place each and every day.

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