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Skip Navigation LinksDNREC : News : Governor and DNREC Secretary tour Brandywine Zoo to see what's new at the zoo

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Beth Shockley, DNREC Public Affairs, 302-739-9902; or Gene Peacock, Brandywine Zoo Director, 302-571-7788 Ext. 201, or 302-300-7658 (cell)

Governor Markell and DNREC Secretary O'Mara tour Brandywine Zoo to see what’s new at the zoo

WILMINGTON (May 22, 2014) – Governor Jack Markell and DNREC Secretary Collin O’Mara visited the Brandywine Zoo today to get an update on the many new and exciting events going on at the First State’s only zoo. Joining them on the informal tour was Zoo Director Gene Peacock, other zoo officials and staff, and officials from the Delaware Zoological Society, the non-profit membership organization that supports the zoo’s mission. The group spent more than an hour on the tour.

Governor Markell and Secretary O’Mara received an update from zoo officials on the future of the damaged building near the zoo entrance (formerly the Monkey House), met two new bald eagles, learned of the upcoming arrival of two new red pandas this summer, the pending construction of a new monkey exhibit, the plans for zoo exhibit upgrades to the public areas around the eagle and otter exhibits, and reviewed plans for a dramatic new rainforest exhibit. Zoo officials also marked the beginning of a major fundraising campaign by the Delaware Zoological Society.

First, Governor Markell honored the 20-member Brandywine Zoo Staff Team with a presentation of the 2013 Governor’s Team Excellence Award. This annual award encourages teamwork by recognizing groups of state employees for their efforts to use continuous quality improvement tools to excel in leadership, team dynamics and communication, producing superior customer service and tangible results. The Brandywine Zoo Staff Team is unique because it consists of staff from the zoo’s Animal Care and Education sections as well as staff employed by the Delaware Zoological Society.

“Like many Delaware families, Lindsay, Riley, and I love visiting the animals of the Brandywine Zoo,” said DNREC Secretary Collin O’Mara,” and the new additions and exhibits will only add to one of the best attractions in Delaware.  In addition to diverse animals and engaging educational programming, I am so proud of the remarkable team that operates the zoo.  Every day they display a deep love for the animals—a love that was made abundantly clear during the storms of 2013.”

Here are some of the highlights of the tour: 

Monkey House damaged by storm
On July 13, 2013, a huge tree crashed through the roof of the Exotic Animal House (also called the Monkey House). Fortunately, all of the monkeys were evacuated safely and no animals were harmed by the accident.  At the time, some of the monkeys were sent to other local/regional zoos and others were kept on site in various secure locations.  The animals will not be returning to the old Monkey House location due to the extensive damage to the structure and most importantly, because modern Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) accreditation standards now require that all zoo animals be housed within the perimeter fence of the zoo.  The state will be holding an open house soon to discuss future plans for the old Monkey House site. 

Future plans for damaged structure/building footprint
There are several options being explored. If the building is demolished and another building rebuilt, it will likely not be used for animal housing in keeping with AZA standards that require that all zoo animals be housed within the perimeter fence of the zoo.  

Options include some or all of several elements:

1)    Demolition of what remains of the old structure and rebuilding either a new interpretive plaza to commemorate the old Monkey House or a new structure on the site for zoo offices.

2)    Adding low environmental impact parking spaces for zoo visitors.

3)    Building a new Education Building either on the site of the existing Education Building or on adjacent land.

Re-designed exhibit for the small monkeys
Construction will begin soon on a new monkey exhibit within the zoo grounds that is in compliance with AZA standards.  It will be located in the middle of the zoo where the owl and iguana exhibits once stood. By summer 2014, some of the small monkeys will be back out on exhibit. 

Newly arrived American bald eagles and American kestrel
Two American bald eagles now reside at the Brandywine Zoo and are happily becoming accustomed to their new multi-story aviary while the American kestrel is housed indoors, off exhibit. These wild birds of prey were rescued with severe injuries and nursed back to health by avian specialists. All three would have difficulty surviving if released. They will enjoy good care at the Brandywine Zoo for the rest of their lives and assist with the education mission of the Delaware Zoological Society.

“The juvenile eagle is about 11 months old and she came to us from Tamarack Nature Center in western Pennsylvania,” said zoo Director Gene Peacock. “She was blown out of a nest and suffered a broken wing during a tornado last June. The wing did not heal properly and she cannot fly due to this. She is all brown because bald eagles do not get their trademark white heads until around four to five years old,” Peacock concluded.


The second eagle is about six years old and from Maine. She can fly, but she suffers from lead poisoning which causes her to have cardiac issues which would, consequently, render her unable to hunt for food in the wild. Lead poisoning is still common in birds of prey because they eat fish that may have swallowed lead fishing weights, or scavenge dead small game that may have been shot with lead pellets. Although bald eagles are no longer on the Endangered Species List, the population continues to suffer from human-caused issues, such as the use of lead ammunition, vehicle collisions and destruction of habitat.


The American kestrel, the smallest and most colorful falcon in North America, came to the Brandywine Zoo from North Carolina, where she was also a rehab bird. She was found with a broken wing. While the wing has healed, she does not have full motion and so she cannot be released. The zookeepers are working with the falcon to train her to be an animal ambassador. Once they become more familiar with her personality, they will give her a name. Although the population of kestrels is healthy in the central United States, the decline of the kestrel population near high density human habitats is linked to continued clearing of land, the felling of dead standing trees that they use for nesting sites, and smaller numbers of eggs produced at one time due to the use of pollutants and pesticides.  

Plans for Eagle Ridge - upgrades to public areas at eagle and otter exhibits underway
When this upgraded exhibit area called “Eagle Ridge” is completed, it will extend the existing bridge overlooking the otter pool into a new raised viewing area that will run along the front of the Eagle aviary. The project has been designed by architect Robert A. Grove, a board member and the Treasurer of the Delaware Zoological Society at no cost to either the state or the DZS. Once the design is completed, access will be ADA compliant, which means that both the eagle aviary and the otter enclosures will be fully accessible for the mobility-challenged and for small children in strollers. Construction is expected to start in fall of 2014.

Red Pandas to arrive this summer
Coming in early summer 2014, the zoo will unveil two red panda sisters from the Detroit Zoo. These almost one-year-old twin youngsters are participants in the Species Survival Program. When they become adults, they will be bred to genetically viable males to increase the worldwide population. More announcements about them will be issued in the coming weeks.

Plans for Rainforest Exhibit announced
The Brandywine Zoo has drawn up plans for an attractive new Rainforest Building that will transport zoo visitors from the banks of the Brandywine to the Amazon riverbank. It will feature an immersive walk-through experience of the rainforest and will include dramatic learning stations.  It will also feature an indoor assembly space overlooking the entire exhibit, to provide the zoo with a much-needed, all-weather, multi-function space that will be ideal for special events, entertaining and rentals. This unique new exhibit is designed to convey a number of important conservation messages in a setting that will attract new visitors to the zoo for years to come.

The Delaware Zoological Society, led by Megan McGlinchey, Board President, and William Montgomery, Executive Director, is launching a major capital fundraising effort which will support a series of projects planned at the zoo. These include the Rainforest Building, which will have a valuable and lasting impact on the lives of the animals at the Brandywine Zoo and the community it serves.

About Delaware’s only zoo, the Brandywine Zoo
The Brandywine Zoo opened in 1905 and has operated continuously since then. The 13-acre property, located in Brandywine Park, is part of Delaware State Parks and is managed by the Delaware Division of Parks and Recreation with the support of the Delaware Zoological Society. On average, the Brandywine Zoo hosts about 80,000 visitors annually.

The zoo is an accredited member of the American Association of Zoos and Aquariums since 1983, a distinction that marks its commitment to providing excellent care for animals, a great experience for the visitors and a better future for all living things.  The Brandywine Zoo is located at 1001 North Park Drive in Wilmington, and is open every day of the year, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, visit or call 302-571-7747.  

Vol. 44, No.172

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