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“Never underestimate what a small group of dedicated people can accomplish.”— Margaret Meade, American Cultural Anthropologist

In the spring of 1961, Robert E. Maytag, grandson of the founder of the Maytag appliance company, called a small group of friends together at his home to discuss the idea of building a zoo in the city of Phoenix.  The idea soon took off as Maytag and his “dedicated bunch of amateurs” proceeded to garner support from other Valley leaders.  The Arizona Zoological Society held its first meeting on April 27, 1961.

Robert Maytag, Phoenix Zoo Founder

Robert Maytag

“It was a period of delightful, enthusiastic chaos,” recalled Nancy Maytag Love.  “We were absolute beginners.  We didn’t have any idea what we were getting into, but our enthusiasm and the certainty that we were building a great zoo carried us through every challenge we faced.”

Robert Maytag’s unexpected death from pneumonia in March of 1962 at age 38 was nearly the death knell for the zoo.  Even the staunchest zoo backers reeled under the blow.  Then Nancy Maytag stepped forward, declaring the zoo would be completed on schedule as a memorial to Bob.  It was the call to action the community needed.  Individuals, families, clubs and companies all came forward with help, giving wherever it was most needed.

“Build the Zoo in ’62!” began gracing buses, delivery trucks, moving vans, shopping carts, grocery bags and vacant buildings.  Family memberships were sold for $5.00 a year.  Every news reporter, station manager, and radio announcer was hit up for a promotional spot.  Social clubs, professional societies, auxiliaries, school groups, unions, sororities and fraternities all felt the pinch.

Finally, on November 21, 1962, Nancy Maytag cut the ribbon before a crowd of thousands, officially opening the Maytag Zoo, named in her husband’s honor.

Phoenix Zoo Ribbon Cutting Ceremony, 1962

Phoenix Zoo Ribbon Cutting Ceremony

With the name changed to the Phoenix Zoo in 1963 to encourage community involvement, the early years of the zoo continued to be a financial struggle.  Building the zoo was one thing; keeping it going was another.  After Nancy Maytag’s resignation from the Arizona Zoological Society, Earl L. Bimson, a banker, stepped forward to provide the zoo with the strong leadership and stability it needed for the next 13 years.  Often credited with saving the Phoenix Zoo during its early years of financial struggles, Earl Bimson successfully negotiated with creditors to restructure or forgive debts.  Due to his efforts, the zoo was in the black by 1965.

Other early supporters of the zoo included Eugene and Nina Pulliam, owners of Central Newspapers, Inc., including The Arizona Republic and The Phoenix Gazette.  Believing the young zoo needed great leadership to grow and thrive, the Pulliams paid the salary of the zoo’s director for five years as “an “anonymous friend of the zoo”.  Under the leadership of Eugene Pulliam, the state news media continued to follow the story of the Phoenix Zoo closely, keeping up public interest and noting with pride every zoo birth and every improvement at the facility.

Most gratifying of all, the community itself supported the zoo.  From the steady donations of money, goods, services, and labor there was only one conclusion to draw:  Robert Maytag’s original premise was true – that the people of Arizona wanted a world class zoo.

Black-footed ferret Phoenix Zoo

Black-footed ferrets arrive in 1990

Originating with the ambitious vision of a dedicated philanthropist and other community leaders, the Phoenix Zoo has welcomed more than 43 million guests since 1962, fulfilling its mission of providing experiences that inspire people and motivate them to care for the natural world.  Beginning in 1962 with Operation Oryx, one of the world’s most successful global wildlife conservation programs, it has become world renowned for its contributions to the field of conservation science.  Today, more than 7,000 Arabian oryx exist world-wide, setting a precedent for subsequent successful Phoenix Zoo conservation initiatives involving Black-footed ferrets, Chiricahua leopard frogs, narrow-headed gartersnake, thick-billed parrots, Mexican wolves and many others.

Educational programming has also continued to grow in scope and reputation, beginning with the arts and crafts-based Summer Institute for Children in 1965, to today’s math and science-based ZooLab and Distance Learning programs offered through several Arizona school districts.

Born of a spirit of community and the efforts of small group of dedicated volunteers, and carefully nurtured through the support of millions, the Phoenix Zoo has enjoyed a truly remarkable first 50+ years.  With your continued support, our next 50 years will inspire millions more, connecting them with the natural world in new and fascinating ways.


The Phoenix Zoo provides experiences that inspire people and motivate them to care for the natural world.


I am a leader in improving people’s lives through interaction with nature, excelling in conservation, education, exhibition and recreation.


Our core values reflect the behaviors and attitudes which lead our interactions and decisions – helping us to achieve our mission and vision. By following these core values we develop and foster positive relationships within our community which will ensure the Phoenix Zoo’s long-term success.


We demonstrate honesty, fairness, and professional standards while holding ourselves accountable to our mission, vision, and community.

We demonstrate compassion for each other and ensure the highest standard of care is given for the well being of our animals.

We are committed to being environmentally responsible and model leadership in conservation through scientific and educational programs and practices.

We encourage a spirit of cooperation and teamwork by working together to build relationships to meet our common goals.

Fiscal Responsibility and Independence
We are committed to managing and operating the Zoo as a credible, successful, and self-sustaining enterprise.

We approach our work with energy, enthusiasm, and a desire to create enjoyable experiences for all, staff and public alike.

The Arizona Center for Nature Conservation does business as (dba) The Phoenix Zoo.

Non-Profit Tax ID # 86-0174843

The Phoenix Zoo is one of the largest private non-profit 501(c)(3) organizations in the country. We rely on admissions, concessions, memberships, special event and philanthropic donations for our daily operations.

Board of Trustees


Jean C. Bingham Chair
Michelle M. Clarke Vice Chair, Board Development
Frederick M. Cummings, Esq. Secretary
Stephen T. Higgins Vice Chair, Outcomes
Harry A. Papp Vice Chair, Financial Development
Gabrielle Vitale Vice Chair, Finance and Treasurer


Lynn Agnello
Mary S. Alexander
Heidi Berger
Jim Burke
Aaron T. Detzer
JoEllen Doornbos
Peter J. Faur
Larry A. Fink
Dr. Stephen Fisher
Bill Halnon
John Hoopes
Derek J. Kerr
Susan Kidd
Manny Molina
Albert W. (Bil) Morris
Philip Petersen
Don Satiroff
Maja Wessels


Norberto J. (Bert) Castro

Key Staff Members

Norberto J. (Bert) Castro, President/CEO

Ruth Allard, Executive Vice President of Conservation & Education
William Cooper, Vice President of Facility Operations 
Bonnie Mendoza, Executive Vice President & Chief Financial Officer 
Dr. Gary West, DVM, Executive Vice President of Animal Health & Collection
Lorraine FriasVice President of Development

Howard S Bayha Jr, Director of Information Technology
Patricia Bump, Director of Marketing and Corporate Relations
Jennifer Flowers, Director of Member & Guest Services
Linda Hardwick, Director of Communications 
Gabrielle Hebert, Director of Education
Harry Jones, Director of Project Management
Fae Rubenfeld, Controller 
Richard Sartor, Director of Living Collections
Chris Ramos, Director of Special Events
Janet Tropp, Creative Director
Stuart Wells, Director of Conservation & Science

Related Links

Current Annual Report
Form 990s: 2012 (pdf)2011 (pdf)2010 (pdf)
Audited Financial Reports: 2013 (pdf) – 2012 (pdf)2011 (pdf)
Privacy Policy

Phoenix Zoo
455 North Galvin Parkway
Phoenix, AZ 85008
Phone: 602.273.1341
Fax: 602.286.3886

Dear Zoo Friends,

As you can see in this year’s Annual Report, 2013 has been a very good year at the Phoenix Zoo. We were thrilled to complete the fundraising for the Zoo’s first ever Capital Campaign, raising $22.5 million. This remarkable show of support for the Zoo is moving us forward to our goal of building A World Class Zoo For A World Class City.

We value every one of our guests, donors, volunteers, charitable foundations and corporations, and cannot thank them enough for their tremendous support. Our donors have choices when it comes to charitable giving and we are deeply grateful that they continue to make us their charity of choice. We could not accomplish all the great things we are doing for the animals in our care and for the world’s wildlife and wild places, without the support of our donors. Their giving also strengthens our ability to give back to the community by providing a world class experience to everyone who visits the Zoo.

In addition to the Capital Campaign projects, in 2013 we upgraded other areas of the Zoo. More than $1 million was spent to improve our guest experience, many of our animal exhibits and add new animals to our collection. We also continued to expand our support for important local and global conservation projects, strengthened existing conservation partnerships, provided a growing slate of educational programming and increased our ability to touch the lives of more children through both our onsite and outreach programs.

This year’s ZooLights was a huge success, as a record-breaking 292,491 guests chose to share their holiday spirit with us and walk through more than 3.7 million twinkling holiday lights. This event was voted by azcentral.com Readers’ Choice as 2013’s Best Holiday Event and we are proud that for so many people, the holiday season is not complete without a visit to ZooLights.

Finally, I would like to once again thank the Zoo’s dedicated staff, our committed volunteer Board of Trustees, our faithful volunteers and, most of all, our dedicated supporters. We could not have achieved this kind of success without you.

 Norberto J. (Bert) Castro
President and CEO
Arizona Center for Nature Conservation
Phoenix Zoo

2013 Annual Report

Download the 2013 Annual Report
(Requires Adobe Acrobat Reader)