Measure Z is a one-tenth of one percent sales tax – or one dime out of every $100 spent on retail transactions – collected in Fresno County that benefits Fresno Chaffee Zoo’s capital improvements and operations. First in 2004 and again in 2014, Fresno County voters overwhelmingly approved Measure Z, which enables the Zoo to continue to provide excellent animal care, upgrade existing exhibits, establish new exhibits and provide educational and conservation opportunities for families throughout Fresno County and to all who visit Fresno Chaffee Zoo.
To date, Measure Z has generated $135 million for capital improvement projects, including $5 million to improve the utility infrastructure that supports all of the Zoo’s incredible habitats. These capital projects include both smaller updates and enhancements and major new exhibits. Some of the updates have included the renovation of animal habitats like the Reptile House, Tropical Treasures, Birds of Prey and, more notably, the King Cobra exhibit. General enhancements have included beautiful new landscaping, the giraffe pathway, the front entrance and the children’s water play area, Wilderness Falls.
Measure Z also helps keep Fresno Chaffee Zoo affordable for families and all Fresno County residents. The low entrance fees, improved exhibits and upgraded visitor amenities have drawn more than three-quarters of a million visitors from around the world each year for the last five years to the Zoo.
While Measure Z funds make capital improvements possible, it is contributions from individuals, organizations and companies that will bring the Zoo experience to life. Simply put, public support enables, earned income sustains, and charitable donations enhance the mission of our 501 (c) 3 nonprofit organization. Philanthropic contributions bridge the gap that exists between earned and tax revenues and the true costs of running and maintaining a world-class Zoo. They provide the margin of excellence that transforms an ordinary Zoo into a magical learning adventure of a lifetime.
Sea Lion Cove
Sea Lion Cove was the first major exhibit built with Measure Z funds and is one of the most unique and beautiful sea lion exhibits in the country. The exhibit expanded the swimming area for the pinnipeds from 29,000 to over 200,000 gallons and significantly improved the guest experience, instantly transporting guests to the Central California Coast and giving them a close-up look at these marvelous animals from four vantage points. Guests have a new opportunity to learn about the conservation threats sea lions and seals face and the Zoo’s work to protect them in the wild.
Completed in 2012, the $11 million project led to a robust increase in Zoo attendance. Sea Lion Cove was awarded the 2014 Exhibit Award by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) – the highest honor that can be given.
African Adventure was the most significant project completed with Measure Z funds from the first ten years of the tax initiative. Unveiled in 2015, this $62 million 13-acre exhibit is a world-class, multi-species exhibit complete with lions, African elephants, meerkat, cheetahs, giraffes, Southern white rhinoceros and warthogs. Together, these animals emulate the African plains and savannas, giving guests an incredible realistic view of the savanna.
African Adventure provides opportunities for cultural discovery, interactive play spaces and engaging live interpretation for all ages. This spectacular addition to Fresno Chaffee Zoo offers guests a wildlife experience that is unparalleled in zoos today.
Animal Ambassador Complex
Fresno Chaffee Zoo prides itself on providing unique opportunities to teach the community about animals, their habitats and conservation efforts to protect them. One powerful way the Zoo does this is through our Animal Ambassador program, featuring live animals who serve as ambassadors for their species and conservation. Zoo staff and volunteers use Animal Ambassadors to educate thousands of community members about different species through field trips, outreach programs and virtual programs, to inspire them to take action in conservation.
Fresno Chaffee Zoo constructed a new $3.5 million home for our Animal Ambassadors that provides more space to the animals in our care. Through this increased housing space, the Zoo is hopeful that we will add more Animal Ambassadors who will bring wonder and knowledge of the natural world to our community.
Looking to the Future
Kingdoms of Asia
Thanks to Measure Z, Fresno Chaffee Zoo is currently constructing a $42 million new and immersive experience that will take guests on an adventure to Southeast Asia. The project broke ground in September 2020 and will open in late 2022.
Kingdoms of Asia will inspire and educate our community on the geography, people, animals and conservation efforts throughout Southeast Asia. Featuring displays of intricate rock-work inspired by ancient Cambodian architecture, Fresno Chaffee Zoo collaborated with our local Southeast Asian communities to ensure Kingdoms of Asia both honors and provides the most authentic cultural experience.
Guests will be able to visit a training space to see zookeepers working with tigers and attend Keeper Chats to learn more about these amazing animals. In addition, guests will have the opportunity to learn about important conservation efforts, including a display on palm oil’s effects on the animals in the region with an interactive way to contribute to these conservation efforts via the Fresno Chaffee Zoo Conservation Fund. There will be a new meeting and classroom space featuring views on both sides so guests attending educational programs or events will be fully immersed in the animals’ habitats.
Kingdoms of Asia will feature the return of the beloved sloth bears to the Zoo as well as new species such as Asian small-clawed otters and Sunda gharial. Other animals include Malayan tigers, orangutans, siamangs, rhinoceros hornbills and Komodo dragons. Animal care was upmost priority to Fresno Chaffee Zoo’s team for the design of Kingdoms of Asia. Our zookeepers worked closely with our architects and designers to ensure each habitat was naturalistic, provided more space for the animals and encouraged their natural behaviors.
Currently under construction, Zooplex will be an expansive, $13 million multi-purpose space for Fresno Chaffee Zoo’s staff to better care for our animals. Housed within Zooplex will be a brand-new commissary where Zookeepers will be able to prepare the appropriate diets for each animal at the Zoo. In addition, Zooplex will be a staff hub featuring an assortment of new office spaces and conference rooms for our animal care team to collaborate and continue to care for our animals.
Fresno County Zoo Authority Board
The Fresno County Zoo Authority is the public agency responsible for the administration of Measure Z, the unique transactions and use tax (sales tax) which is collected throughout Fresno County for the support of Fresno Chaffee Zoo in the City of Fresno. The Zoo Authority is governed by a seven-member board. This board consists of six qualified electors (Fresno County voters) who are appointed by the Fresno County Board of Supervisors, plus the Mayor of Fresno.