Naples Zoo a $25 Million Roar

In November of 2016, Naples Zoo publicly announced plans to roar into the future with the launch of a $25 Million Capital Campaign and $5 Million Endowment Drive. As the only nationally accredited zoo serving Southwest Florida, the Zoo recognizes that it must expand its offerings, continue local wildlife conservation efforts and increase its capacity as the region’s population grows.


Naples Zoo’s current entrance and gift shop was built in the 1970’s when Zoo attendance was less than 100,000 visitors annually. Attendance has grown to nearly 400,000 and the building simply can’t handle the volume of visitors that the Zoo is now attracting. Long lines greet visitors many days of the year, particularly during the Zoo’s busiest season. Most importantly, the 1970’s structure does not in any way reflect the beauty and expansiveness of the Zoo and botanical garden experience inside.

The Southwest Florida community is one of the fastest growing areas in the nation, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s most recent population estimates. In response to this growth and anticipated future growth, Naples Zoo has been hard at work developing a forward-thinking master plan designed to meet the needs of our Southwest Florida community and visitors to our area for generations to come.

With the ever-increasing pace of modern society, it is becoming more difficult to find opportunities for quality family time. Naples Zoo is a place in the community where families can share moments of togetherness and enjoy time with each other while learning and being inspired by animals and nature.

The story of Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens began in 1919 when botanist Dr. Henry Nehrling acquired the Naples site for his plant collection. In 1952, Julius Fleischmann acquired the property and began the two-year restoration of Nehrling’s garden, complete with an array of tropical birds and transformed it into Caribbean Gardens. In 1969, the Fleischman family invited the Tetzlaff family to relocate their collection of rare animals and open Jungle Larry’s, the predecessor of today’s Naples Zoo. In 2001, Naples Zoo achieved its first national accreditation by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), the organization that sets the highest standards for zoos and aquariums. AZA accreditation is renewed every five years and has since been achieved in 2006, 2011, and 2016. In 2004, the Fleischmann family was interested in selling the land occupied by Naples Zoo. Collier County residents overwhelmingly voted for an ad valorem tax increase to generate the funds needed for the land purchase. With the Zoo lands saved, a 501(c)(3) non-profit, Naples Zoo, Inc., was formed to manage, lead and grow the Zoo under the terms of a 30-year lease with Collier County.
In appreciation for Collier County residents’ foresight and generosity, Naples Zoo hosts free days on the first Saturday of each month and offers residents half-priced annual family memberships. These opportunities allow Naples Zoo to give back nearly $1 million annually to Collier County residents, a welcome benefit especially for low-income families who might not otherwise be able to afford the Zoo. Naples Zoo has grown substantially since that important vote in 2004, nearly doubling attendance. Today, Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens is stronger than it has ever been financially, programmatically and operationally.
In 2014, Naples Zoo launched a silent Phase One of the Roaring Into Our Future $25 Million Capital Campaign and $5 Million Endowment Drive. During Phase One, the Zoo raised over $12 million, attaining half of the total campaign funds needed. Many projects have already been completed in Phase One, including; a new parking lot and entryway and new exhibits for a Florida panther, pythons, red-ruffed lemurs, and clouded leopards. This Phase also completed significant technology upgrades in the Safari Canyon Theatre and facility enhancements to Alligator Bay and Lake Victoria. The final part of Phase One is the Glass Animal Hospital which is set to break ground in May of 2017.
Fundraising for Phase Two is well under way and new projects include three buildings encompassing an education center, an administration center and a welcome center that will transform the guest entrance experience. It also includes new animal exhibits and further enhances to Alligator Bay. The centerpiece of the new entrance will be a new Zoo education center with multiple classrooms, allowing the Zoo to increase its capacity to meet the valuable education mission. The classroom space has been designed with retractable walls to allow for large audience presentations and to accommodate the Zoo’s Conservation Lecture Series.
Today, the Zoo attracts more than 390,000 guests annually and is an educational resource to additional 33,200 children annually: Collier County Schools Distance Learning ZooCon Programs (18,000), ZooMobile Outreach (1,500), Camp WILD (200), Preschool Programs (500), and self-guided student Field Trips (13,000). Naples Zoo has formal partnerships with Collier County Public Schools and Lee County Public Schools that help support their educational goals. The Zoo’s commitment to education is further demonstrated by its collaboration with the Florida Department of Education to develop programs that meet Florida’s Next Generation Sunshine State Standards. Current grade-specific programming has been designed for students from pre-K through elementary students, offering a variety of hands-on learning opportunities in biology, animal behavior, ecology, and species and habitat conservation.
Naples Zoo is ranked among the top zoos in the country contributing to field conservation as a percentage of total budget. Since 2011, Naples Zoo has contributed over $1 million dollars to conservation programs to help animals in the wild. With a firm belief that what is best for people and wildlife is the same in the long run, Naples Zoo strives to support conservation efforts that reflect this mutual benefit. To maximize use of limited funds, Naples Zoo places priority on supporting proven conservation efforts within existing long-term programs locally, nationally and
Naples Zoo is a historic Collier County Landmark in the heart of Naples and is dedicated to increasing the appreciation and conservation of wildlife and seeking ways to better serve and help educate our Southwest Florida community. Roaring Into Our Future, Naples Zoo’s $25 Million Capital Campaign has three goals:
  1. To ensure the very best care possible for Naples Zoo’s growing animal collection through a new animal hospital on-site.
  2. To inspire stewards of all ages to ensure a positive future for wildlife and wild places through a new education center and expanded education program portfolio.
  3. To improve and enrich member and guest experiences through a new entrance, new exhibits and a historic museum experience.
The time has come to support Naples Zoo and its future. This is the first major capital campaign that Naples Zoo has ever launched since becoming a non-profit organization. To date, the Zoo has operated with limited capital resources, achieving its many recent successes with relatively modest
funding and ample creativity. This is an organization that has proven itself worthy of significant investment. Naples Zoo has worked diligently to
develop exceptional conservation and education initiatives, operate in a position of fiscal strength and attract a highly talented professional staff. Now it is time to enhance the Zoo’s facility so that its physical plant is on par with its excellent programming.

Conservation. Education. Quality family experiences.

These are the focal points of Naples Zoo’s work, driving the daily activities of Zoo staff and volunteers, and shaping the organization’s strategic goals. The funding and completion of Naples Zoo’s Master Plan will offer unsurpassed opportunities to make a difference in each of these areas, benefiting the community and the planet. Naples Zoo can remain vibrant and relevant far into the future, but it cannot do so without the broad support of the entire community. Please join Naples Zoo as they work to create the best Zoo for Southwest Florida. Call 239.262.5409 ext. 147 or visit www.napleszoo. org/capitalcampaign today for information on how you can support Naples Zoo’s plan to Roar into Our Future!
Far from the simple menageries of the past, today’s nationally accredited zoos are centers of learning and natural crossroads for biologists, educators, environmental scientists, and researchers – as well as for students, conservationists, and all animal lovers. Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens is an award-winning, private 501(c)(3) nonprofit serving wildlife and families here and around the world. More information at
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