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Arts & Culture

Increasing out-of-town visitors helping boost Buffalo Zoo

The Buffalo Zoo has seen millions of dollars put into new and renovated exhibits in recent years - and not just because it is such a familiar site for locals to visit.

Zoo animals come from long distances, like Luna the amphibious polar bear, and there will be a Komodo dragon from even farther away in about a year, when yet another renovation finishes up.

Visitors don't come from quite as far, but an increasing number of the people paying to get in are from well beyond Buffalo city limits. Zoo President and CEO Norah Fletchall says the cultural attraction keeps track of where people come from when they come in.

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News

"Over 500,000 guests on an annual basis. We track our attendance," Fletchall says. "We draw visitors, obviously, from the City of Buffalo, but also quite a few of them from Erie County and some of the outlying counties and even on a national basis. So we really are a regional attraction for people to come to and enjoy a great day out and enjoy this beautiful park and a beautiful part of the city."

In the Parkside community that surrounds the zoo is the familiar sight of kids and strollers coming from local streets into the zoo entrance. They and out-of-town visitors leave behind dollars, at the Zoo, across the street and elsewhere in the city.

"All these exhibits have helped to modernize the Zoo and, certainly, the community's responded," says city Assemblymember Sean Ryan. "People come to the Zoo more often. People come for more repeat trips because it's a really nice place to be and we have people from Western New York coming and we have the larger region, but this is all due to the modernization efforts."

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.