Oakland Zoo II

Spring-Summer 2003
Project Type
Full team
Project Focus
Feasibility Study
Organization Type


The Oakland Zoo is a nonprofit organization managed by the East Bay Zoological Society. Founded in 1922 by Henry Snow, the zoo has been located in its current Knowland Park location since 1936. The zoo is home to more than 440 native and exotic animals.

Project Objectives

The Oakland Zoo asked an ACT team to develop a feasibility study highlighting the costs, benefits, and risks of bringing a giant panda to the zoo.

Project Overview

The ACT team conducted the following over the course of its work:

  • Industry research on pandas in comparable zoos
  • Interviews of key stakeholders at the Oakland Zoo and other zoos, U.C. Davis, and the City of Oakland
  • Financial analysis of costs, impacts, and benefits of bringing a panda to the Oakland Zoo
  • Analysis of the non-financial costs, impacts, and benefits

Key Recommendations

ACT recommended against bringing a panda to the Oakland Zoo for the following reasons:

  • funding is uncertain and pandas are expensive,
  • benefits do not clearly outweigh associated risk and costs for the Oakland Zoo or for the Oakland community,
  • and pandas do not contribute anything unique to Oakland’s endangered species effort.

However, ACT also recognized certain benefits of bringing a panda to the Oakland Zoo and developed the following recommendations in the event the zoo decided to pursue this course of action:

  • Ensure that the effort is fully funded from an outside source
  • Phase expenses to match available cash in bank
  • Position the zoo as only a contractor and not as a financial partner or promoter

Key Conclusions

  • Bringing a panda to the Oakland Zoo will be expensive, and incremental revenue will be minimal when compared with expense.
  • Funding and benefits are uncertain.