2023 is coming to a close…

With 2024 close on the horizon, we thank you for your incredible support this year! Simply put, we couldn’t be successful without you. From all of your friends at the Zoo, we wish you all the best 2024 has to offer. Now it’s time to take a look back at some of the moments this year brought.


Fieldwork in South Africa

There’s nothing more exciting than a successful release back into the wild! Zoo staff, vet tech Jenny and penguin keeper Jade, traveled to South Africa in January to assist our partners at SANCCOB. They cared for African penguins and other seabirds, and even took part in SANCCOB’s first rehabilitation release following avian flu restrictions—a significant moment for this critically endangered species!

Learn more about African penguin conservation


Fieldwork in Panama

In February, Zoo staff members Kat and Autumn traveled to Panama to assist our partners at EVACC Foundation. Not only did they use their technical expertise to help care for EVACC’s collection of critically endangered Panamanian golden frogs (PGF), our team also used their interpersonal skills to educate and welcome guests from all over the world to the Golden Frog Sanctuary and Square Trees Trail.

Learn more about PGF conservation

zoo staff in front of evacc foundation building


Saying Goodbye to Willow

In March, we mourned the unexpected loss of our beloved reticulated giraffe, Willow. It is difficult to put into words the impact Willow has had since she was born here in 2017.

This was a tremendous loss and we know our members, guests, and friends felt it too. Since her birth, Willow has inspired joy and compassion in thousands of people. She grew from an awkward calf with ossicones that looked like pigtails to a beautiful icon of the Zoo and her vulnerable species. Her presence at the Giraffe Feeding Station, in particular, is something that everyone misses. We could go on about Willow’s goofy personality and many life milestones and know those topics will continue to be in conversations for years to come. We know you understand how special Willow was and the significance of her loss. Thank you for joining us in mourning.




This spring, male African elephants Tuffy and Samson began spending more time together—but introducing two large animals that each weigh several tons is a BIG deal and a slow, thoughtful process. Teenage males like Samson live a solitary life or join a bachelor herd with other males before finding a mate. Working to create a bachelor herd with Samson and older bull Tuffy is exciting because it gives the youngest member of our herd both a companion and mentor to show him the ropes.

Learn more about elephant care & conservation


Lappet-Faced Vultures

In May, we welcomed lappet-faced vultures Shredder and Kenya, who moved in near the entrance to Main Valley. These large birds are native to Africa and the Middle East, and can be distinguished by their pink face, hooked beak, and majestic neck plumage.

Learn more about lappet-faced vultures

two lappet faced vultures in grass


River Otter Pup Nora

In June, an all-paws-on-deck effort took place behind the scenes at the Zoo hospital. In late May, we received a call alerting us that an orphaned North American river otter pup was taken in by rangers at a Maryland State Park and needed immediate care. The approximately 40-day-old pup was transported to the Zoo’s hospital for assessment.

Over the last few months, the healthy female pup received around-the-clock care from our team, including multiple feedings, daily vet checks, and otter-appropriate enrichment before being deemed non-releasable by rehab professionals. Recently Nora was welcomed into the river otter habitat here at the Zoo and introduced to male otter Hudson.



Ground Hornbill Everest

In July, a northern ground hornbill chick hatched! This was the first offspring for parents North and Blue. The chick’s name is the result of our team’s unwavering effort to hatch a hornbill chick over the past 10 years—our very own ‘Mt. Everest.’ Everest can now be seen alongside his parents at their habitat in Main Valley near the entrance to the Zoo.



Wood Turtle Release

After months of nurturing and growth, the six wood turtles that hatched at the Zoo finally set off on their wild journey in August! With support from our conservation partners at Maryland Department of Natural Resources and Susquehannock Wildlife Society, we successfully released these endangered juveniles into their native habitat.



Parking Lot Renovation

After a decade of planning and in response to understandable complaints, the we started to make long-anticipated improvements to parking at the Main Gate. The work will completely resurface multiple parking lots and should be completed sometime in 2024. This September, our logo sign was placed in its permanent position in front of the Zoo entrance as part of the renovation process!



Award Renamed for Mike Cranfield

The world lost a great wildlife champion when retired Maryland Zoo veterinarian and conservationist, Dr. Mike Cranfield, passed away in August. Mike first came to the Maryland Zoo in 1982 as Chief Veterinarian and subsequently became the Director of Animal Health, Research, and Conservation, responsible for the health and care of the Zoo’s more than 1,500 animals. Even though he had retired from the Maryland Zoo, Dr. Cranfield was still actively involved with multiple research projects and was the outside scientist on the Zoo’s Research Committee up until his death.

At his memorial service at the Zoo in October, we announced that an existing research internship program would be renamed in his honor and a plaque installed at the Zoo’s hospital, where he spent so much of his career and made innumerable positive contributions to the health and well-being of the Zoo’s animals. Additionally, Michael and Ann Hankin have renamed the Michael D. Hankin Award for Conservation, after Dr. Cranfield. This honor, which is given by the Zoo to individuals who have made significant regional contributions to the conservation of wildlife and wild places, will now be known as the Dr. Mike Cranfield Conservation Award Presented by Michael and Ann Hankin.


mike cranfield at podium


Fieldwork in Namibia

In November, our Director of Animal Facilities, Jess Phillips, traveled to Namibia were he mentored potential seabird rangers for NAMCOB, an organization partially founded by the Zoo to help the declining population of endangered African penguins. Jess also assisted in the annual seabird census and installing important ground reader equipment on Halifax Island.



Sustainability Plan

In December, we took a significant step towards a greener future when we unveiled our Sustainability Plan! Committed to reducing our environmental footprint at home and around the globe, we’re taking bold strides to ensure the well-being of animals and the health of our planet.


men planting flowers

Your support is as important today as it has ever been, and we hope you will make a special, year-end tax-deductible donation before 2023 is over!

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