Valentines and a Golden Anniversary: Vintage photos of zoo visitors over the decades

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This August 2019 will officially mark 50 years since the Alaska Zoo was incorporated as a nonprofit. The zoo was started back in 1969 as a place to care for orphaned and injured animals, including the zoo’s first resident - an Asian elephant named Annabelle. While the zoo is no longer in the elephant business, we have stayed true to our mission and roots as an organization that cares for wildlife in need. We are proud of where we came from and what we have become. But who do we owe our success to?

Yes, we have had many dedicated staff members and volunteers over the years and we still do today. We have a group of core staff members who have each worked at the zoo 20 years and more. We have amazing volunteers who help to run our events and programs. We couldn’t function without them! We have staff members who brave all of the elements Alaska’s seasons can throw at them to care for zoo animals all year long in an outdoor setting which is not always kind.

Our donors have helped sustain us over the decades as well. They come in all forms - foundations, community organizations, businesses, individual donors, those who have included the zoo in their estates and wills, animal adoptive parents, scout groups and more. Their support both financially and logistically has been instrumental in creating the zoo you see today.

But there is another group of people who are the zoo’s bread and butter - our visitors! Over the past five decades, we have had a steady stream of local enthusiasts who have raised multiple generations of their families while making the zoo a part of their memories and lives. We have thousands of visitors who travel to Alaska each year and include the zoo in their vacation plans. Visitors pay for the zoo’s operations. The revenue they generate goes straight into our General Fund, the money used to maintain facilities, care for animals, pay bills and pay staff. These revenue sources include admission fees, gift shop purchases, coffee shop purchases, annual memberships, education programs, camps, event tickets and concessions.

It doesn’t take a holiday like Valentines Day to make us realize how lucky we are! It is simply amazing how much of an impact visitors make with their dollars and desire to come to a truly Alaskan place - a zoo set in a forest with natural trails and cold climate species. Thank you for all of our staff, volunteers, donors and visitors. You are the village that supports our mission!

Join us for our Valentines for the Animals event this Saturday, February 16th to continue sharing the love with our animals! Check out this recent article about our event. Kids will be FREE ENTRY for the event and Zoo Lights on February 16th.

We hope you enjoy the gallery of visitor images below by photographer Bob Pate. Bob documented the zoo’s first three decades and we are so grateful to have his record of the zoo’s history!