John Walczak, Louisville Zoo Director (#330)
In an interview taped on location at the Louisville Zoo, director John Walczak talks about the award-winning Gorilla Forest exhibit and details plans for the zoo’s next big exhibit: Glacier Run, a $25 million polar bear habitat. He also talks about the zoo as an educational resource.
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The Louisville Zoo’s Gorilla Forest, which simulates a tour through an African wilderness, was named the Best Exhibit in North America by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums in 2003. Zoo Director John Walczak uses the setting as a backdrop to outline plans for the zoo’s next big exhibit: Glacier Run, a $25 million habitat, scheduled to be completed in 2010, that will allow guests to observe polar bears close-up.
Walczak explains why he thinks a zoo makes a wonderful place for people to enjoy each other’s company—and even a good place for a first date. He then goes into modern zoos’ larger mission of allowing people to form a bond with the planet, thereby encouraging them to become conservationists. The Louisville Zoo, he says, is also an outstanding educational resource that annually hosts more than 100,000 student visitors, ranging from preschoolers to scholars in advanced degree programs.
Goodman and Walczak also discuss current events at the zoo, including the progress of baby elephant Scotty. Born in March 2007, Scotty was the first elephant ever born in Kentucky. Just past his first birthday, he weighed in at more than 1,400 pounds. Walczak recalls the preparation and planning involved in Scotty’s conception and birth, including a period of four months when zookeepers slept in the elephant barn in case the expectant mother needed them.