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UP ‘ROAR’: City ends relationship with El Paso Zoological Society

Jose G. Saldana
Recently, the Zoological society, a non-profit organization in El Paso that raises funds and provides volunteers for the El Paso Zoo, lost its long-time contract with the city.

The El Paso Zoo may be facing major changes in the upcoming months after the city’s decision to end its partnership with the El Paso Zoological Society. The city called it quits with the non-profit Feb 26., ending a partnership that has been active since 1963. The Zoo Society contributed towards the zoo including organizing events, education programs, and giving gross revenue of zoo memberships. 

Family-friendly events such as “Rock-N-Roar”, “Wild at Heart”, and “Roaring Roulette” are a few examples of projects that were either partially or completely funded by the Zoo Society. Additionally, the Zoo Society helped with funding projects like the Digital X-Ray Equipment in the Clinic and the McKee Giraffe Shade Structure and more. 

The Zoo Society is hopeful to have another contract with the city. On their website, the Zoo Society states that with the 60-year-long partnership, the city is not open to renegotiate with them.

“After realigning objectives, we look forward to working with the City Manager to develop a new agreement and relationship,” the Zoo Society said. “(However) the Society has communicated honestly and openly with city leadership, expressing its interest and commitment to our zoo and community. So far, with no success.” 

Upon receiving the news that the contract ended by email Feb. 26, Zoological Society board president Pamela Agullo told media that the support the Zoo Society provides for the zoo cannot be handled by the city alone.

“Over the last seven years, we’ve provided over ten million dollars in support in addition to the 25 percent memberships revenue that we hand over to the zoo as a support fund,” Agullo said. “There is no municipal zoo in the nation that operates without a nonprofit support entity. Because the city cannot withhold the financial burden that operating a zoo represents.” 

The city and the Zoological Society’s contract had been up in air since December 2022. After extensions, the city decided to end the contract in late February. In the email, Agullo said the Zoological Society had until March 17 to leave the vicinity. 

However, in response to the uproar, Deputy City Manager Dionne Mack told the media that the contract between the city and the Zoological Society was not equally beneficial. Because the nonprofit receives most of the membership revenue, many city representatives agreed they would instead want the entire revenue. Mack says the contract ending was also partly due to the fact the Zoo Society failed to finish several projects. 

“We are ending this contract because it isn’t one hundred percent beneficial to the zoological society and city equally,” Mack said. “Per contract, in 2018, required (the Zoo Society) to raise $7.5 million dollars that was subsidy for our master plan. It was 11 projects, only four of those are complete.”

The city also conducted an audit, where several issues were found in the El Paso Zoological Society. According to CBS 4 local news some of those issues were the Zoo Society raised membership prices or offered discounts without approval from the zoo director. As well how the Zoo Society failed to submit financial statements on time or did not over the years. 

The contributions the nonprofit has to the zoo is undeniable by many, prompting many zoo-goers to question what the city will do in place of it. Big changes are bound to come to the zoo and in the future, because of the loss of funding from the Zoo Society. Soon, families will experience them, and deduce whether these changes are for the better or worse. 

Sofia Sierra is the web and copy editor and may be reached at[email protected].

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About the Contributors
Sofia Sierra
Sofia Sierra, Web/Copy Editor
Sofia is a junior studying multimedia journalism with a minor in creative writing. She is the web and copy editor at The Prospector. After graduation, she hopes to work outside of El Paso to continue to grow as a writer.
Jose G. Saldana
Jose G. Saldana, Contributor/Photographer
Jose G. Saldana is a senior at the University of Texas at El Paso majoring in digital media production. Jose was born in Los Angeles, California and raised in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico. Jose is a contributor at The Prospector and in the future he wants to dedicate to sports photography and videography around the world.
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