The Denver Zoo had record-breaking attendance in 2012, the organization announced Friday, Jan. 11.
Tallying onsite zoo visits and outreach education programs, the zoo served 2,065,410 people last year--the highest number in the zoo’s 117-year history. It surpassed the previous record of 1,988,593 set in 1975, when visitors packed the zoo to say goodbye to famed polar bears Klondike and Snow.
“Certainly the opening of our groundbreaking new exhibit, Toyota Elephant Passage, played a large role in our 2012 success,” said zoo president and CEO Craig Piper in a release. Interest in a new exhibit was a big draw. “We are fortunate to be a family favorite that continues to gain popularity.”
Did the zoo’s title of greenest zoo in the country help? On Friday, zoo public relations manager Sean Andersen-Vie saw no direct connection with the crowds.
While not the main attraction, the zoo’s environmental efforts drew praise in select circles within the last several years.
In 2011, the Denver Zoo won top honors from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums as the greenest zoo in the United States. It has been recognized in the areas of water conservation, alternative transportation, zero waste initiative and energy conservation.
Toyota Elephant Passage provided several examples of the zoo’s sustainability efforts.
In June, the zoo was awarded LEED platinum certification, the highest level attainable, from the U.S. Green Building Certification Institute for Toyota Elephant Passage. LEED certification is for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, and recognizes high performance green buildings.
Toyota Elephant Passage also has a waste to energy gasification system which converts 90 percent of the zoo’s waste into usable clean energy. Its goal is to reduce landfill waste by 1.5 million pounds per year and to reach “zero-waste” by 2025.