Ryan and Buffalo Zoo Announce $300,000 in State Funding for New Amphibian and Reptile Center – Naming Honor for Former Zoo President Donna Fernandes

State funding to close capital campaign gap for new exhibit
January 26, 2018

Buffalo – Today, January 26, 2018, New York State Assemblyman Sean Ryan joined with officials from the Buffalo Zoo to announce that he has secured $300,000 in new state capital funding that will be used to fund the construction of the Buffalo Zoo’s new Amphibian and Reptile Center. The Buffalo Zoo has been working to raise $3.7 million for the project, and has already received funding commitments from the City of Buffalo, corporations, foundations and individuals. The additional funding announced today will close the gap leading to campaign completion and will allow the project to move forward. Ryan and the Buffalo Zoo also announced that the new Amphibian and Reptile Center will be named after longtime former Buffalo Zoo President/CEO Donna M. Fernandes, Ph.D., who retired from her position in June 2017 after serving in the role since 2000.

Ryan was joined at the Buffalo Zoo for the announcement by Buffalo Zoo Board Chair, Jonathan A. Dandes, President/CEO Norah Fletchall, and Dr. Fernandes who has been newly titled president emeritus.

During Fernandes’ tenure, the Buffalo Zoo developed $50 million in new exhibits and visitor attractions, increased the membership base to more than 18,000 households, and built annual attendance to a 30-year record high of 538,000 at the close of 2016. In addition to record visitation numbers in 2016, the Zoo was awarded AZA accreditation for an eighth consecutive time.

In 2002, Fernandes and the Board of Directors developed a 15-year Master Plan that led to development of new animal exhibits such as Vanishing Animals, Ecostation, Otter Creek, Sea Lion Cove, M&T Bank Rainforest Falls, Delta Sonic Heritage Farm, and most recently the Garman Family Arctic Edge. In all, the Buffalo Zoo is now home to more than 1,000 animals representing 500 species.

Assemblyman Sean Ryan said “I am thankful that New York State will provide critical capital funding to help support the new Amphibian and Reptile Center at the Buffalo Zoo. This funding will help us to achieve our goal of a new world class exhibit here in the Queen City. A thriving Buffalo Zoo provides an economic boost for Buffalo and all of Western New York, and a revamped amphibian and reptile exhibit will help to deliver continued economic benefits. I am especially pleased that the board of the Zoological Society has accepted my recommendation to name the new Amphibian and Reptile Center after Dr. Fernandes. Her leadership over the course of 17 years helped to transform the Buffalo Zoo in ways many thought would never be possible. It is a fitting honor for her many years of dedicated service, and I am thankful to have her join us today for this special announcement.”

New Buffalo Zoo President/CEO Norah Fletchall said “This is an exciting project for the Zoo that will allow us to better explain the story and contributions of the various species in our care as ambassadors for their counterparts in the wild.” The new Amphibian and Reptile Center will be home to more than forty different species including Komodo dragon. Fletchall adds that “Donna’s interest in all animals, particularly the smallest and often the most vulnerable, makes this an appropriate way to honor her dedication and achievements over almost two decades.”