Design and Development to Begin for $7 Million Animal Health Center at Rosamond Gifford Zoo

Dec 19, 2017


The Rosamond Gifford Zoo is starting the process of designing a $7 million animal hospital to replace its aging and undersized clinic and quarantine space.  Zoo director Ted Fox says it’s one of the first priorities in their master strategic plan to meet the needs of their growing collection, and to maintain accreditation.

"Each year, the accreditation standards get more stringent, more important, and focus more on animal welfare and health and well being.  They've touched on that in every accreditation cycle...that is one of the primary things that people need to do better."

Fox says the facility will also fit nicely with their education mission, which ranges from children…to their partnership with Cornell University veterinary students and residents. 

"Right now, the biggest animal we can bring into our clinic is the snow leopards.  So, the lions, tigers, white lipped deer, the bison, all have to be treated in the field.  By treated, it could be a simple knock-down for a physical exam, radiographs. or it could be surgery or something else.  It's not ideal by any means."

The snow leopard is the largest animal that can cared for in the zoo's current clinic.

Fox is quick to add no animal has ever suffered because of triaging in the field.  He says the new health center will provide a large transparent barrier to offer better views into surgery suites and labs…a big improvement over the current design.

"There's one little viewing window, and honestly the design was bad because little kids can't have to pick them up, and only a couple at a time can see.  It's great.  People love to have that access.  We want to make that much, much bigger."

Fox says the design and engineering process will take most of next year and cost a half million dollars.  The county will also bond for construction, which is expected to begin in 2019.  


Kierha had a habit of sticking out her tongue.
Credit Hilary Weissbard / provided photo

The zoo's female African Lion Kierha died Sunday.  Zoo officials say she was nearly 18 years old.  

The cause of death has not been officially determined, but zoo officials say in a release that Kierha had recently been anesthetized for examination and testing after showing signs of health issues common to elderly female felines.  She died due to complications of her condition.

“As is the case when we lose any of our animals, it was a very sad day when Kierha left us,” said Zoo Director Ted Fox. “Heroic efforts were made by the zoo staff and Cornell University’s veterinary staff to ensure that her last days were as comfortable as possible.”

Kierha and her two siblings, Mindine and Joshua, were born on April 21, 2000, at the Baton Rouge Zoo and came to Syracuse as 8-month-old cubs. The public enjoyed watching the triplets grow up, and Kierha was known as the least dominant and most mellow of the three.  

She outlived both her sister and her brother, who passed away in 2014 and 2015 respectively. In November 2015 the Syracuse zoo acquired male lion M’wasi from the Bronx Zoo as a companion to Kierha. The two became close and could often be seen cuddled up together on exhibit.

Zoo patrons last saw Kierha on exhibit at the zoo’s Holidays with the Animals event, when animals receive enrichments in the form of gift-wrapped presents filled with treats.

The zoo is accepting donations toward animal care at the zoo in Kierha’s memory at

Kierha became close to a male lion named M'wasi who arrived in November 2015.
Credit J. Gramza / provided photo