Ground Broken for New Roger Williams Zoo Veterinary Facility

Mon, 10/5/2009 - 7:52 PM

By Jan Mariani

Providence, RI – Rhode Island Zoological Society donors joined Zoo officials today to mark the start of construction of a new veterinary hospital, slated for opening in late 2010. While other capital campaign projects, both completed and yet to come, have higher public visibility, none will be more important than this new facility to assure the highest quality animal care for the hundreds of animals in the Zoo’s care.

Compared to other zoos of its size, Roger Williams Park Zoo has an impressive veterinary staff, including two full-time veterinarians and veterinary technicians. But over the years they have been challenged by the space limitations in the basement of what was originally a working barn.

“One of the core responsibilities of any AZA-accredited zoos is to provide the best possible care for the animals in its collection,” commented Jack Mulvena, Executive Director of Roger Williams Park Zoo and the Rhode Island Zoological Society. “We are excited that soon we will have a facility that further helps us fulfill that responsibility most efficiently and effectively.”

The current hospital requires that a variety of medical functions be performed in the same space. The new hospital, with 55% more square footage, will provide appropriate and separate facilities for each function. The setting for the new hospital will be removed from other zoo operations, providing a quieter area for care for sick and quarantined animals, as well as excellent access to a dedicated service road and secured gate. This is important for more efficient animal handling for new acquisitions or dispositions. Construction of the new hospital will also enhance the Zoo’s participation in the Association for Zoos and Aquarium’s Species Survival Plan by increasing the capacity to care for the Zoo’s 18 threatened species.

Sophie Danforth, the founder of the Rhode Island Zoological Society, and Stephanie Chafee, former Vice-Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Society, provided the lead gifts for the hospital construction, which will cost approximately $3.8 million. At the ground breaking ceremony, Danforth and Chafee announced that the hospital is being dedicated and named in honor of past Board Chair John J. Palumbo for his many years of exceptional service to the Zoo and Society. Palumbo’s 7 year tenure as Chair of the Board of Trustees is second only to that of Danforth. Other funding is provided by the Helen Walker Raleigh Animal Fund at the Rhode Island Foundation, the Marie Keese LeLash Foundation, individual donors and bond monies approved by voters in 2006.

For more information about the Zoo and the other new completed exhibits and those planned in the near future, visit or

Roger Williams Park Zoo, one of the oldest in the nation, is Rhode Island’s number one outdoor family and tourist attraction, and is also a leader in conservation efforts undertaken by a zoo of its size. The Zoo has received numerous awards for environmental education, and conservation work done locally and around the world, caring for species that without human intervention would face certain extinction.   Roger Williams Park Zoo is supported and managed by the Rhode Island Zoological Society and is owned by the City of Providence.

Photo:  Sophie Danforth, founder of the RI Zoological Society, former RIZS board vice-chair Stephanie Chafee, and John Palumbo, former RIZS board chairman, at the ground breaking of Roger Williams Park Zoo's new John J. Palumbo Veterinary Hospital.

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