It is perhaps natural to look back at the year with eyes focused largely on the immense challenges that we faced as the pandemic swept across the globe. Indeed, we have all been pushed to confront changes and tribulations that we never could have imagined, and the last fiscal year ended with the Minnesota Zoo in a very different state than when it began. But we can also take this opportunity to focus our reflection to one of gratitude for you – our Zoo community – and the support you have given us in order to adapt.

Your generosity has been truly remarkable and something that we certainly will not soon forget. You helped build the firm grounding we stand on as we maintain the essential characteristics of adaptability and determination to persevere and move the Zoo forward. You joined with us to continue serving the mission of the Minnesota Zoo to connect people, animals, and the natural world to save wildlife.

Just as the natural world that we all work so hard to protect must demonstrate an ability to adapt to ever-changing circumstances, we too have all remained flexible. While much of the world slowed down or came to a halt entirely, our dedication to conservation didn’t stop, and with your support, our local and global work to preserve wildlife continued on.

It has been a challenging year, but one in which we have emerged stronger through the connections and commitments made by you. Thank you for your support and dedication as, together, we ensure the Minnesota Zoo remains a gateway into the natural world for many generations to come.

John Frawley
Director, Minnesota Zoo
President, Minnesota Zoo Foundation

Aimée Dayhoff
Chair, Minnesota Zoo Foundation Board

"Wings Financial Credit Union is proud to continue our support of the Minnesota Zoo and its mission to connect people, animals, and the natural world to save wildlife. In 2020, we had the honor of sponsoring the new Nature Illuminated experience and we look forward to the Wings Financial World of Birds Show reopening when it is safe to do so."

- Frank Weidner, Wings Financial President & CEO


In true Minnesotan fashion, let’s talk about the weather. As winter arrives each year and the temperatures drop to that crispy cold that might leave your cheeks feeling a bit of a sting, we usually have a few weeks where we need to acclimate to the chill in the air. And a visiting herd of six Asian wild horses is at the Minnesota Zoo specifically for this purpose.

The Asian wild horse went extinct in the wild by the 1960s. But thanks to a small number of horses in human care at zoos throughout the world, hope was not entirely lost for the species. Descendants of these animals have since been reintroduced to their wild ranges in Mongolia, Russia and elsewhere, allowing the once-lost species to roam in nature once again.

As part of the ongoing conservation efforts, zoos throughout America have been working collaboratively to establish a genetically diverse and healthy pack, with plans for them to join a wild herd at Orenburg Nature Reserve in Russia. In preparation, six horses from warmer-weather zoos came to the Minnesota Zoo in late 2019 in order to experience a nice, cold Minnesota winter, to help them adapt to the climate of their future forever home.

Due to global COVID-related travel restrictions, our visitors spent a second winter with us here at the Minnesota Zoo. Your contributions have helped care for these additional animals, including their food, healthcare, and training supplies. You’ve also been supporting the zookeepers who have been caring for more animals alongside our resident herd of Asian wild horses, while doing the incredible work of building trust with the conservation herd, training them to be comfortable in the crates they will eventually travel in to Russia.

Asian wild horses have been found at the Minnesota Zoo since opening in 1978. Because of zoos – and your support of them – the species’ conservation designation was able to be upgraded from “extinct in the wild” to “endangered”. Much work remains to continue protecting the species, but with your help, there’s hope for a brighter future for the Asian wild horse.

The second you walk inside the Minnesota Zoo, you can see how much everyone cares about the animals and the people who visit. There are programs for anyone who wants to learn more about our world, its inhabitants, and the preservation of species in danger. When the Zoo closed last spring, we were concerned not only for the animals, but for the people who work with them. Our daughter donated Girl Scout cookies to the staff, hoping to bring them smiles and so they knew people were thinking about them.

- Monica & James Dillenburg, Friends Plus Donors


A healthy ecosystem is required for species of any variety to thrive. While animals have evolved to adapt to their changing environments, the speed at which some native habitats have been altered has been too quick a pace for wildlife to keep up with. For example, prairie once covered 1/3 of Minnesota’s landscape, but has quickly been reduced to just 1% of its original range. This has threatened the survival of Minnesota’s tiny but mighty Dakota skipper butterfly populations that rely on healthy prairies.

As a donor, you contribute to a uniquely special ecosystem of saving wildlife, which includes our Prairie Butterfly Conservation Program. Your support of this critically important work has an impact far beyond the borders of the Minnesota Zoo.

Since 2017, Minnesota Zoo conservation biologists have reared Dakota skipper butterflies, carefully monitoring their growth from egg to caterpillar to emergent butterfly. Though these butterflies aren’t viewable in a public habitat, they require as much care and attention as any other animal found at the Zoo, because their survival to adulthood is crucial to the survival of their wild counterparts.

Biologists have been releasing these butterflies at Hole in the Mountain Prairie Preserve in southwest Minnesota, hoping to create a healthy and self-sustaining wild population that will ultimately sustain itself without additional release efforts on our behalf. As a vulnerable species, putting this work on hold could potentially put the species at risk, but fortunately, biologists were able to continue their research and field work in the spring and summer of 2020.

And in 2020, a spectacular discovery was made. For the first time, biologists were able to confirm that previously reintroduced butterflies were breeding and repopulating on their own, meaning our efforts and your investment in saving wildlife is paying off. While much work remains to continue bolstering the delicate population, this discovery was a welcome sign of a hopeful tomorrow for the preservation of one of the world’s smallest species.

Our world cannot exist without wild creatures, and it is such a joy to be able to see them up close. The Minnesota Zoo’s educational programs not only entertain, but also introduce children and adults alike to the Zoo’s conservation efforts and the plight of animals that may be endangered and could become extinct in the wild. Everyone needs to care about the world’s biodiversity and do whatever we can to support our Minnesota Zoo, now and into the future.

- Leanne Edberg, Circle of Life & President’s Club Donor


As we retreated inward to the confines of our homes early on in the pandemic, a beautiful outward growth was simultaneously occurring: our Zoo community was coming together through the shared value of protecting and preserving the wonders of nature. Through your kind words and generous contributions in response to the Zoo’s need to close to the public, you planted the seeds of hope for a better tomorrow.

While we didn’t know it at the time, we all quickly understood that tomorrow would mean significant adaptations at work, school, and home, along with adapting to the ways we connect to one another. Our mission is rooted in connections. Connecting you to incredible animals and the subtle joys of nature; but also connecting you with each other. Your support has helped us adapt in order to create opportunities for you to join together with friends and loved ones to share in each other’s fellowship at the Zoo and in the company of wildlife, while keeping you and the animals safe.

Just like a zookeeper dedicated to the animals in their care, as a donor, you are dedicated to conserving the future of the Minnesota Zoo and the future of wildlife. Thank you for your support.

We started donating to the Minnesota Zoo shortly after we got married. We did not have much to give, but the Zoo was important to us and a valuable asset to the community. As time went on, we learned more about what the Zoo does for conservation efforts on both a national and worldwide level. It’s for this reason that we’ve kept giving, even though our careers have taken us from Minnesota to Texas to Iowa, where we currently reside.

- Stephen & Elizabeth Miller, Director’s Circle Donors


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