The largest gift in the history of Tacoma’s Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium will help highlight what the executive director of the zoo’s fundraising organization calls "a tremendous conservation story."
The Puyallup Tribe of Indians is donating $685,000 over the next five years to be the sponsor of a new red wolf exhibit and Zoobilee, the Point Defiance Zoological Society’s annual fundraising event, the organization announced this week.
The red-wolf exhibit "was built in the early 70s, and it looks like it was," said Caryl Zenker, executive director of the non-profit zoo society. "What this gift will do is allow us to build an exhibit that’s on par with the other attractions here."
Only 14 known red wolves lived in the wild in the early 1970s, Zenker said, and Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium helped take the lead of a federal recovery program that has since helped the species’ number grow to 275.
In part because of the zoo’s off-site breeding program, a wild population of red wolves now lives in North Carolina.
"It’s a little-known accomplishment here locally," Zenker said. "But nationally, we’re recognized for it."
The Point Defiance Zoological Society is in midst of $7.15 million capital campaign; the red wolf exhibit, which will cost about $1 million, is one of the campaign’s four components.
The gift from the Puyallups will allow the zoo to hire an architect to design the red-wolf exhibit. Zenker said construction should begin some time next year.