Animal Ambassadors

Brookfield Zoo Brings a World of Animal and Conservation Enrichment
to Our Back Door


story by lisa stamos | Photography Courtesy of Brookfield Zoo

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Brookfield Zoo has been the requisite elementary school field trip for Chicago and its suburban school children for decades, and the memorable tradition continues today. For some, it may be the only trip they will ever make to this world-class zoo destination. For those one-timers, it’s time to go back! Take yourself, take your children, or bring your grandchildren. You won’t be disappointed.

Brookfield Zoo was initiated through a land donation by the forward-thinking and compassionate Edith Rockefeller McCormick, a philanthropist who wanted to improve the environment for the animals, and in turn, improve their interactions with each other, as well as with visitors. The zoo is owned by the Forest Preserves of Cook County, and is managed and in part funded through the tireless work of the private, nonprofit Chicago Zoological Society, its 417 employees, and a cadre of volunteers (including many from Barrington)—all under the passionate leadership of its President and CEO, Dr. Stuart Strahl.

Brookfield Zoo is a leader in conservation, education, research, and the unsurpassed care that it provides to more than 3,000 living things. It has achieved many “firsts” in its field, starting with being the first moat-designed zoo in the United States. Today, visitors enjoy a wide variety of specialty exhibits including the Australia House, Big Cats, Hamill Family Play Zoo, Hamill Family Wild Encounters, The Living Coast, Reptiles and Birds, and many more. There are also seasonal events year-round.

Take a fresh look at Brookfield Zoo in the pages ahead and revisit one of the greatest zoos in the world. Memberships are available. To learn more, visit

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Left: Care of bottlenose dolphins extends beyond Brookfield Zoo. Chicago Zoological Society spearheads the Sarasota Dolphin Research Program based in Sarasota, Florida. The program is the world’s longestrunning study of a wild dolphin population. Right: Dr. Michael Adkesson, vice president of clinical medicine for the Chicago Zoological Society, examines a young pangolin at Brookfield Zoo’s Animal Hospital

Brookfield Zoo Is Accredited by AZA

The Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) has been the primary accrediting body for zoos and aquariums for over 40 years. U.S. agencies such as OSHA and the USDA consider AZA standards as the “national” standard, and they refer to AZA standards when evaluating institutions. AZA’s rigorous, scientifically based, and publically-available standards examine the zoo or aquarium’s entire operation—including animal welfare, veterinary care, conservation, education, guest services, physical facilities, safety, staffing, finance, and governing body. AZA standards are performance-based to allow them to be applied to a variety of different situations and cases. AZA is continuously raising its standards as science continues to learn more and more about the species in our care.

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Edith Rockefeller McCormick photographed in 1904 by William Louis Kahne. Photo Courtesy of Library of Congress.

The Chicago Zoological Society Recalls Edith Rockefeller McCormick’s Groundbreaking Donation for Brookfield Zoo

This year’s Chicago Zoological Society’s gala theme “Roaring Whirl 2019” celebrated the 100th anniversary of the original 83 acres of land donated by Edith Rockefeller McCormick to the Forest Preserves of Cook County for the purpose of creating a modern zoo. The land was a wedding present from her father, Standard Oil co-founder John D. Rockefeller. The district added another 98 acres to the plot and in 1921, the Chicago Zoological Society was established. Today, the zoo sits on 216 acres and is successful in large part due to the partnership efforts of the Forest Preserves of Cook County and the Chicago Zoological Society as the zoo’s manager, as well as a legacy of generous benefactors.

For McCormick, a modern zoo would do away with caging animals, and instead, use ditches and moats to separate the animals from each other, and from the public. Brookfield Zoo was the first of its kind in the United States with this strategy, gaining international attention. Construction of the zoo began in 1926, then slowed during the Great Depression but picked up again by late 1931. Brookfield Zoo opened on June 30, 1934. By the end of its first year, more than one million people had visited.

The zoo has been a leader with many initiatives including bringing Su-Lin, the first panda to be exhibited in the Northern Hemisphere in 1937, the first black rhino birth that occurred in professional care, and rare Australian mammals and birds arrived from the Taronga Zoo in 1949. Today, the Chicago Zoological Society leads numerous research and conservation efforts globally.

A Legacy of Compassion

McCormick was a great Chicago philanthropist who underwrote the Chicago Opera, funded cutting-edge medical institutions, was a charter member of the Chicago Art Institute in 1909 offering funding and loaning works from her private collection, and she was instrumental in launching Chicago’s pioneering Juvenile Court system.

The McCormick’s wealth was astounding, but it was matched equally by their unrelenting generosity, and extensive, transformational financial gifts that generated many of today’s important institutions. Personally, for McCormick, her financial means gave her a level of independence that most American women couldn’t dream of then, or now. “Yes, she had eccentricities, but she was also brilliant and compassionate,” said Clarice Stasz, author of “The Rockefeller Women: Dynasty of Piety, Privacy, and Service”.

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Brookfield Zoo Showcases Life-Size Animal Sculptures at
Its “Brick Safari”

Summer Exhibit Features Animals Made from LEGO® Bricks

CAPTION Brookfield Zoo is the first zoo in the world to be awarded the Humane Certified™ certification mark for the care and welfare of its animals, meeting American Humane Association’s rigorous certification standards.

Guests visiting Brookfield Zoo this summer can see a roaring tiger, a leaping dolphin, a lounging leopard, and many other animals in an entirely different and unique way. The zoo’s summer exhibit—Brick Safari, presented by Metro™ by T-Mobile—features more than 40 life-size animal sculptures created from more than 1.6 million individual colored LEGO® bricks. The temporary exhibit is open now and continues through September 29, 2019.

Brookfield Zoo is the first venue in North America to display the international traveling exhibit. The menagerie of animals will be located along a winding wooded pathway on the east side of the park. Many of the sculptures are based on some Brookfield Zoo favorites—the giraffe, snow leopard, and pangolin. After checking out these amazing figures, guests can go visit their live counterparts that reside at the zoo. Additionally, guests will encounter some animals they would not normally see at Brookfield Zoo, including an elephant holding its trunk high and a giant panda with its playful cubs.

While fascinating to kids, those young at heart, and Adult Fans of LEGO® (AFOL), the interactive exhibit will appeal to both science and art lovers, who will have the opportunity to tap into their creative sides. “We wanted to bring STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) to Brookfield Zoo in a fun way,” said Andre Copeland, interpretive programs manager for the Chicago Zoological Society, which manages the zoo. “Adults will be able to reflect when they were kids, how using STEAM skills allowed them to be creative, problem-solve, and exercise critical thinking skills. For the younger guests seeing the exhibit, they can use their imaginations and learn how anything is attainable if they put these skills to use.”

Displayed near the sculptures are colorful graphics featuring interesting animal facts and statistics such as the size of each figure, how many bricks were used to build each one, and the amount of time it took to create each sculpture. For example, the elephant figure is made up of 271,739 bricks and took 1,600 hours to complete.

To commemorate their visit to Brick Safari, zoogoers can take a selfie in the Safari Jeep created from LEGO® bricks or behind a life-size photo frame. The gift shop near the exhibit’s exit will have a variety of brick-themed items available for purchase.

Open during zoo hours, admission to Brick Safari is $5 for adults and $3 for children ages 3-11 and seniors 65 and over. Children 2 and under are admitted free. Brookfield Zoo members receive half off the admission price. General zoo admission is $21.95 for adults and $15.95 for children ages 3-11 and seniors 65 and over. Park is $14. For further information, visit

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Edith Rockefeller McCormick photographed in 1904 by William Louis Kahne. Photo Courtesy of Library of Congress.

CZS’ Roaring Whirl 2019 Raises More than $1.4 Million

Proceeds to support award-winning conservation, education, and
animal welfare programs

The Chicago Zoological Society’s (CZS) Women’s Board and Board of Trustees hosted its 38th annual black-tie gala on Saturday, April 27, at Brookfield Zoo. The organization’s largest fundraiser of the year, which attracted more than 600 corporate, civic, and philanthropic leaders from throughout the Chicagoland area, raised more than $1.4 million. The chair of the event was Barbara J. Bradford, a resident of North Barrington and a member of the Chicago Zoological Society’s Board of Trustees. Romana E. Malinowski, a resident of Hinsdale and member of the Women’s Board was the co-chair.

This year’s theme “Roaring Whirl 2019” celebrated the 100th anniversary of the land donation by Edith Rockefeller McCormick to the Forest Preserves of Cook County for the express purpose of creating a modern zoo. The evening began with a cocktail hour featuring up-close experiences and photo opportunities with many of the zoo’s animal ambassadors, including a prehensile-tailed porcupine, tamandua (a small anteater), binturong, and a Major Mitchell’s cockatoo. Proceeds from the Whirl support the animals at Brookfield Zoo, as well as the Society’s conservation, education, and research programs.