Rendering of the Houston Zoo's Galápagos Islands.

Image: Houston Zoo

We always knew Houston Zoo was pawsome, but if you needed any more proof here it is: Travel & Leisure recently named the Houston Zoo as one of the top zoos in the country. One of the nine best, in fact—a ranking that should have every lion, tiger, and bear over by Hermann Park puffing out their furry chests in pride.

And it’s not just the park’s 55 acres, home to 900 species, that the magazine trumpeted, but also its more than 45 wildlife conservation projects worldwide, including some specifically focused on saving animals native to Texas  from extinction. Those efforts continue in the new Galápagos Islands exhibit, slated to open in the fall of 2022 as part of the zoo’s centennial celebration.

Rendering of the Houston Zoo's Galápagos Islands.

The Galápagos Islands will bring the Ecuadorian archipelago, as well as the unique ecosystem—including sea lions, giant tortoises, sharks, and penguins (that’s right, the Houston Zoo’s getting its first penguins, ya’ll)—that thrives there, over 2 million visitors go to Houston Zoo annually. But the zoo’s history with the islands goes back further; for almost three decades, staff have been traveling to the Galápagos to assist in conservation efforts, working with scientists at the Galápagos National Park and training conservation professionals on the islands, Houston Zoo spokesperson Jackie Wallace tells us.

And like the good steward it is, the zoo’s using its big birthday to pay it forward. A portion of the funds raised through the zoo’s Keeping Our World Wild capital campaign are going toward wildlife-saving projects and educational initiatives aimed at protecting those birds, iguanas, and marine animals.

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