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News Release


July 17, 2019

Zoo Boise’s new Gorongosa National Park Exhibit is now open to the public. The 2.5-acre expansion highlights the zoo’s conservation efforts across the globe while educating users on efforts to aid the animals and the people who live in Mozambique, Africa.

Zoo Boise, a division of Boise Parks and Recreation, hosted a ribbon-cutting Wednesday morning to celebrate this new era for the zoo.

“We couldn’t be more proud of this new exhibit and the story it tells about our community’s commitment to conservation,” said Mayor Bieter. “We should all celebrate this wonderful addition for the City of Boise and the entire Treasure Valley community – and the great work it represents in redeeming a very special part of this world.”

The new exhibit is home to new animals that are typically found in Mozambique. Visitors can meet African wild dogs, spotted-necked otters, warthogs, a Nile crocodile, vervet monkeys and more. Each animals’ enclosure was designed to mimic existing landscapes and geological features found in Gorongosa National Park.

Original public art inspired by Gorongosa was created by artist Melissa “Sasi” Chambers for the new exhibit. Zoo visitors can interact with the large installation, which was inspired by animals native to the national park including the African elephant, blue wildebeest, the greater kudu and the leopard.

In addition, Zoo Boise partnered with the theater department at Boise State University to bring the sunsets and landscapes of Mozambique to life through paintings on the walls of the indoor exhibits.

The more than $9 million expansion would not be possible without the fundraising efforts of the Friends of Zoo Boise, a non-profit membership organization that supports Zoo Boise in animal acquisition, capital improvement projects, education programs, volunteer opportunities and special events.

“The Friends of Zoo Boise board is grateful to all of the generous families, corporations and foundations who helped to make this project a reality,” said Kristen Ruffing, Friends of Zoo Boise board president. “ We are so excited to show our community this incredible exhibit and to further our partnership with Gorongosa National Park.”

The zoo’s expansion was also supported by Boise Mayor David Bieter and the Boise City Council.

“This is the realization of years of fundraising, planning and construction,” said Zoo Boise Executive Director Gene Peacock. “We are excited to introduce our guests to new animals and new interactive experiences that highlight how special Gorongosa National Park is. We feel this exhibit truly brings Africa to Boise.”

Conservation funds from Zoo Boise have helped improve the animal preserve and support the people who live around it following years of civil war. A portion of each admission fee at Zoo Boise goes toward the conservation fund, which also supports projects here at home, including restoration efforts in the Boise Foothills. The zoo was ahead of its time in creating its innovative conservation initiative. The fee is now replicated by zoos across the country.

“We hope this exhibit is eye-opening for our visitors in that they learn about our efforts to protect and preserve wildlife around the world,” said Doug Holloway, Boise Parks and Recreation director. “Visiting the zoo is not just a family tradition here in Boise, its also a conservation action. We are proud of that legacy.”

Getting to Zoo Boise (355 Julia Davis Dr.)

Zoo Boise guests who plan to check out the new Gorongosa National Park Exhibit on opening day, July 17, and throughout the rest of the month of July are encouraged to use a free shuttle service provided by Boise Parks and Recreation to get to and from the zoo. The shuttle will pick passengers up near the softball fields in Ann Morrison Park (Ann Morrison Blvd. entrance) and take them directly to the zoo. Signage will be posted to point users to the shuttle stops.

Shuttles will run every 15 to 20 minutes seven days a week starting at 10 a.m. and the shuttles will stop running each day at 5 p.m. Last admission to the zoo each day is at 4:30 p.m.

Zoo Boise visitors are always welcome to park in Ann Morrison Park and walk the Greenbelt to the zoo. In addition, Boise GreenBikes and e-scooter travel to and from the zoo is a good alternative transportation option.

If you are planning to park inside Julia Davis Park, please keep in mind that there is additional parking behind the zoo that is often still available when parking spots in front and around the Rose Garden are full.

Animals from the Gorongosa National Park Exhibit

The Gorongosa National Park Exhibit will have 25 different species and 21 of them are brand new to Zoo Boise.

Featured Animals



Nile Crocodile


African Wild Dogs


Vervet Monkeys



All 25 Species:

African Giant Millipede
African Plated Lizard
African Wild Dog
African-crested Porcupine
Assassin Bug
Black Crowned-crane
Emerald-spotted Wood Dove
Gorongosa Lizard
Jackson’s Chameleon
Nile Crocodile
Orange-breasted Waxbill
Pied Crow
Red-bellied Firefinch
Red-legged Running Frog
Southern Ground Hornbill
Speckled Mousebird
Speke’s Hingeback Tortoise
Spotted-necked Otter
Spur-winged Lapwing
Striped Hyena
Vervet Monkey
White-backed Vulture

Artist Statement

Melissa “Sasi” Chambers
Zoo Boise Gorongosa National Park Exhibit Public Art Installation
June 2019, Boise, ID

This Public Art Installation is inspired by both the animals, and the people of Mozambique who live in Gorongosa. The animals chosen represent key animals native to the park which are not included in the Boise exhibit. They are the African Elephant, the Blue Wildebeest, the Greater Kudu, and the Leopard. I also included the birds: Lilac-breasted Roller, Saddle-billed Stork, Green-headed Oriole, and African Hoopoe.

I chose to represent the people who live in Gorongosa by painting the distinctive patterns informed by the textiles called Capulana which are worn as wraps, head scarves, or baby slings by the people of Mozambique. I used the patterns as background for the animals, and also alone for visitors to use as their own backdrops to their photo memories.

My choice to use bright, saturated colors, big splashy patterns, and geometric renderings of the animals’ faces was meant to appeal to the children, of all ages, and to emphasize how brightly patterned and colorful are the natural world and the animals and people who live in it.

Plus the baboons seem to be pleased with their view of the artwork from their habitat. Bonus!

Featured Animals Facts
Zoo Boise's Conservation Efforts

A Conservation Connection: Zoo Boise and Gorongosa National Park

Despite the more than 10,000 miles that separate them, Zoo Boise and Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique, Africa share a special connection.

That connection began almost a decade ago when leaders at the zoo decided to turn a visit to the zoo into a conservation action.

The innovative initiative, which is now copied by zoos across the country, came in the form of a conservation fee – a small charge added to each visitors’ entrance admission at Zoo Boise, which is then donated to help protect animals across the globe.

Over the years, millions of dollars have been raised to protect animals and their habitats. One of the beneficiaries of these conservation funds is Gorongosa National Park. Funds from Zoo Boise, which is managed by Boise Parks and Recreation, have helped improve the animal preserve and support the people who live around it following years of civil war.

Idahoan and philanthropist Greg Carr is leading the effort to promote conservation and human development around the park, which has seen a tremendous population boom in wildlife since the project began. He made the initial connection between Gorongosa and Zoo Boise.

Carr will be in attendance on July 17 when the new Gorongosa National Park Exhibit officially opens at Zoo Boise. The exhibit, which is a 2.5-acre expansion, brings Africa to Idaho.

The Friends of Zoo Boise led a $9 million fundraising campaign to make the new exhibit a reality. It will feature African wild dogs, vervet monkeys, a crocodile, warthogs, spotted-necked otters and other animals that visitors to the Mozambican wildlife park could encounter.

“It’s important to the zoo and to the City of Boise that we do our part to protect wild animals and educate the public about conservation needs,” said Zoo Boise Director Gene Peacock.

It’s an ambitious project that will help tell the story of Zoo Boise’s conservation mission.

Learn more about Gorongosa National Park by visiting their website: https://www.gorongosa.org/

Partnership with Boise State University

Partnership with Boise State University Helps Brings Gorongosa Exhibits to Life

Brightly colored murals catch your eye the moment you step inside the E.O. Wilson Building and other new animal enclosures at Zoo Boise’s Gorongosa National Park Exhibit.

The murals are the result of a partnership between Zoo Boise and Boise State University, located just across the river from the zoo.

Boise State professor Michael Baltzell used photos from Mozambique and Gorongosa to bring the landscapes to life. He worked with theater arts major Kaitie Branton to create the interior murals for the dogs, hyenas and gibbons, which were all painted by hand.

“You want to capture the sense of the environment that the animals live in, but you also don’t want to overpower the animals,” Baltzell said. He’s an associate professor and tech director for the Theater Arts Department at Boise State.

Visitors can see the new murals when they visit the Gorongosa National Park Exhibit scheduled to open to the public on July 17.

About Gorongosa National Park

Learn all about the Gorongosa National Park story and timeline by clicking HERE.

Donor Drive and Fundraising Information

Thanks to generous donors and incredible community support, Zoo Boise and the Friends of Zoo Boise raised more than $8.9 million for the “Zoo with a New View” campaign to make this vision a reality.

Over 1,000 unique donors gave to the Zoo with a New View Campaign.

Interview with Greg Carr

Do you know how the Idaho Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial is connected to the new Zoo Boise Exhibit?

You might not think there is a connection between the new Zoo Boise Exhibit and the Anne Frank Memorial, but there is.

Greg Carr helped fund the Anne Frank Memorial near the same time he became involved in Gorongosa Park and there is a Nelson Mandela quote engraved on the Anne Frank Memorial: “It is important for conservation and rural development to be combined. Conservationists must take into account the needs of people around the reserves.” Mandela said in a 1992 television interview.

The President of Mozambique, Joaquim Chisano, was friends with Nelson Mandela. The two of them had an idea that national parks in their countries needed to help the people who share the greater ecosystem (and not just be concerned about wildlife)–the parks should provide employment, advance health and education, and the parks should invite the local communities for free safaris–the land is their cultural and spiritual heritage– after all. Greg Carr met President Chissano who invited Greg to help make Gorongsoa a “human rights park.” When Carr signed the agreement with the Mozambican Government to co-manage the Park, Nelson Mandela invited him to his office to congratulate him. In that meeting, Greg told Nelson Mandela about the Anne Frank Memorial and that his quote was on the wall. So, the story goes full circle.


Q & A with Greg Carr

How did you get involved in international conservation?

I met the former President of Mozambique, Joaquin Chissano, who was a friend of Nelson Mandela. This is near the time I was helping the Anne Frank Memorial in Boise get started. Joaquim Chissano and Nelson Mandela had an idea that national parks ought to change their character. In addition to protecting wildlife and ecosystems, in Africa at least, national parks needed to support the local people who share the greater ecosystem. President Chissano invited me to help restore their national treasure, Gorongosa Park. The Park had been destroyed in a generation of war.

What makes you so passionate about Gorongosa National Park?

I love the Mozambican people. This project gives us a chance to tackle several large challenges at the same time:
a. Protect biodiversity
b. Lift people out of poverty who live near the Park
c. Keep girls in school and out of child marriage

How did your relationship with Zoo Boise begin?

Former Zoo Boise Director Steve Burns and I met famous Biologist EO Wilson at the Sun Valley Writer’s Conference. Steve explained to me that Zoo Boise likes to support conservation projects with the support of their generous Zoo attendees.

How does it feel to see positive changes happening in Mozambique thanks to support from conservation partners like Zoo Boise?

We should all remember that progress is possible. Sometimes it seems like all we get in the news is “bad news”. But, if we take the long view, we can protect this planet’s treasures and we can help people. It takes patience and perseverance. Zoo Boise’s participation reminds me how many good people there are in this world.

What would you like to tell Idahoans who visit this new exhibit about the work going on at Gorongosa National Park? What do you hope they take away?

Not everyone will have the chance to visit the real Gorongosa Park in Mozambique. However, if the exhibit motivates you, there are plenty of projects you can pursue in your own community to protect green space and educate children about the wonders of Nature.

How does it feel to see the Gorongosa National Park Exhibit in Boise become a reality after years of planning and fundraising?

Only now, as I stand here, does the reality hit me. A lot of people had to have a lot of imagination and belief to pull this off. The Zoo Boise – Gorongosa Park may be one of the best Zoo-National Park relationships in all of the USA.

What’s next for you and for the park in Mozambique?

The Park is surrounded by 100 primary schools. I want to improve all the school buildings and help the teachers who have so few resources. I am hoping that some corporations might want to have a school named after them in Mozambique!

Zoo Boise Passport Giveaway

Starting July 17, kids (11 and under) visiting Zoo Boise will get a very special passport for the new Gorongosa National Park Exhibit. Kids will be able to collect stamps on their passport at the different Discovery Stations around the new exhibit. Once 4 stamps are collected, kids will earn a special Gorongosa National Park patch! It will take more than one visit to Zoo Boise to collect 4 stamps. Passports and patches are very limited and will only be available until they are gone.

Contact Info:

Bonnie at bshelton@cityofboise.org or Jeff at jagosta@cityofboise.org