Living a Zoo Dream – Walking Stick

As I near two months in my role at the Lake Superior Zoo, I thought I would share some perspective on the business side of running a zoo. While the animals are the stars of the zoo, a lot of work behind the scenes goes into keeping a zoo like this running.

Like any business, hundreds of important things happen on a daily basis to ensure that the zoo is running efficiently and effectively. The key is to focus on those areas that are most critical, monitor them and work on improvements. As most people who know me would tell you, I am passionate about metrics (yeah, I’m a pretty cool guy).

Metrics is just a fancy business term for measuring things that are important. It is like measuring calories eaten, minutes spent exercising or miles per gallon of fuel burned by your car. While there are thousands of things to measure, the key is measuring the right things.

At the zoo, we are focused on measuring three key areas: Visitor experience, quality and staff engagement. Visitor experience is essential to ensuring that we are providing the best opportunities for visitors to engage with our amazing animals, learn about conservation and preserve these species in the wild. Visitor experience ranges from the quality of our exhibits to the cleanliness of our facility to how visitors are greeted when they arrive.

To evaluate our visitor experience, we have started giving zoo trivia and survey forms to our visitors. Our goal is to ensure that we are meeting our mission by promoting action towards conservation through up-close animal experiences. In addition, we want to get feedback from visitors about how they would rank their visit and what we can do to improve.

Please come out to the zoo and take this survey. We’re even offering a prize. In addition, I would like to encourage anyone who has visited the zoo in the past six months to leave a review on Trip Advisor (tripadvisor.com), where the zoo is working to become a top 15 “things to do” in Duluth. We can only do this with your help.

Quality is obviously a high priority at the zoo. Primarily, this relates to the quality of care we provide our animals. It’s also shown through the quality of our exhibits, the enrichment we provide to our animals and by following all practices and procedures to promote a safe and healthy atmosphere for our animals and guests.

Obviously, none of the great things at the zoo could happen without a dedicated and passionate group of people. This goes for zookeepers, guest services staffers, maintenance employees and even the CEO. We are currently conducting an employee engagement survey at the zoo to see what we can do to ensure that we create a positive, engaging and exciting work environment.

I couldn’t write a whole blog without mentioning one of our amazing animals at the zoo. One of my favorites that people often overlook (quite literally at the zoo and in the wild) is our walking sticks. These amazing animals can be found on all continents other than Antarctica, and are masters of disguise.

They sit quietly among tree limbs and leaves to avoid predation from birds, reptiles and spiders while they feed on plants. One of the most amazing traits of these animals is that they are able to reproduce parthenogenetically. This means that unfertilized female eggs will hatch into females, while eggs fertilized by a male have an equal chance of turning out male or female. So if anyone asks, “Who needs a man,” a perfectly acceptable answer is, “Not a female walking stick!”

Thanks again for tuning in to learn more about the Lake Superior Zoo and its amazing animals. Please continue to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and our website. And please post a review of our zoo on Trip Advisor.

Corey Leet is CEO of the Lake Superior Zoo. You can contact him at cleet@lszoo.org or 218-730-4500, extension 203. Find his blog at lszooduluth.org and on the Lake Superior Zoo’s Facebook and Twitter profiles.


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