Philadelphia Zoo’s KidZooU Recognized for Top Honors in Exhibit Design

Association of Zoos and Aquariums honors KidZooU as Exhibit of the Year

Philadelphia Zoo's new children’s zoo and wildlife academy, KidZooU: Hamilton Family Children’s Zoo & Faris Family Education Center, has received Top Honors in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ 2014 Award for Exhibit Design. This annual award represents the highest honor for new exhibits and recognizes excellence in the area of live animal display and exhibit design by an AZA-accredited Institution (U.S. or International) or Related Facility member.

“The most effective way to connect our zoo and aquarium visitors to the wild is through dynamic and immersive habitats that engage and inspire our guests,” says Rick Barongi, Executive Vice President of Conservation at the Houston Zoo and Chair of AZA’s Honors and Awards Committee. “The Philadelphia Zoo has raised the bar to new heights, for all AZA institutions, with this incredible animal experience.”

The $32 million KidZooU, which opened in April 2013, provides a joyful, engaging experience for children and families while promoting a lifetime of conservation action. A year-round destination with extensive indoor and outdoor activities, rare breeds of goats, sheep, and chickens; ducks; miniature horses; pigeons; tropical butterflies; Australian parakeets; coral reef fish; domestic rats; ants and more call KidZooU home. The outdoor exhibit area features a “goat bridge” over the entrance and a tower for goats to climb while children scale a parallel climbing structure, learning about these animals’ amazing abilities through purposeful play. The indoor education center is comprised of two galleries, with the North Gallery focusing on conservation connections, teaching visitors that Saving Energy Saves Wildlife and the South Gallery showcasing ordinary creatures in an extraordinary way.

“KidZooU is a pivotal project in both the physical and programmatic development of Philadelphia Zoo,” says Vikram H. Dewan, President and CEO of Philadelphia Zoo. “We are thrilled this exhibit – one which marked a major milestone in the Zoo’s transformative master plan – has been recognized by AZA. We are committed to engaging and inspiring our guests through our world-class exhibits, including our youngest visitors and future stewards of the planet.”

KidZooU was designed with special needs communities in mind and exhibits feature Universal Design elements--signage in Braille, American Sign Language and a picture exchange system for children on the autism spectrum and very young children--as well as audio and tactile elements. KidZooU is a sustainable site, which earned prestigious LEED Gold certification in December 2013. The exhibit also boasts two state-of-the art classrooms for school groups and original educational programming.

Philadelphia Zoo is home to two other exhibits which received AZA’s Exhibit Award in previous years: McNeil Avian Center (2010) and First Niagara Big Cat Falls (2007).  

Philadelphia Zoo was also granted accreditation by AZA’s independent Accreditation Commission after a thorough review to ensure it has and will continue to meet rising standards, which include animal care, veterinary programs, conservation, education, and safety. AZA requires zoos and aquariums to successfully complete this rigorous accreditation process every five years in order to be members of the Association.

“By meeting the highest standards, Philadelphia Zoo is ranked among the best zoos and aquarium in the world,” says AZA President and CEO Jim Maddy. “When people visit Philadelphia Zoo, they can be assured that they are supporting a facility that is a leader in the care and conservation of wildlife.”

Philadelphia Zoo officials learned of the organization’s re-accreditation and the Exhibit Award Top Honors at AZA’s annual conference, which was held in Orlando, Florida from September 12-18, 2014.
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ABOUT PHILADELPHIA ZOO:  America's first zoo and one of the region's foremost conservation organizations, Philadelphia Zoo is home to nearly 1,300 animals, many rare and endangered. By connecting people with wildlife, Philadelphia Zoo creates joyful discovery and inspires action for animals and habitats. The Philadelphia region’s leading family destination, the Zoo welcomed more than 1.2 million visitors last year. Philadelphia Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. To become a member, donate or to purchase tickets please visit Philadelphia Zoo is a non-smoking facility.