Little Rock Zoo receives $775,000 gift for cheetah, penguin exhibits


The Arkansas Zoological Foundation announced today that the Little Rock Zoo has received the largest gift in its 80-year history.

A gift in the amount of $775,000 was made by the Laura P. Nichols Foundation to the Arkansas Zoological Foundation for naming rights to two exhibits and a special earmark for education programming. The first $300,000 of the gift will give naming rights for a new African Penguin habitat at the Zoo. Another $300,000 will give naming rights to a new cheetah exhibit. The final $150,000 has been earmarked for conservation education outreach programs.

The Laura P. Nichols Foundation had already given $25,000 to name a penguin at the new African Penguin exhibit prior to making the larger gift of $750,000.

Zoo director, Mike Blakely, said the gift is the largest gift the Little Rock Zoo has ever received and sets a new standard of giving for the Zoo. “The Nichols Family has set a new path for the Zoo with this incredible contribution. This gift shows that the Little Rock Zoo is deserving of large donations and we are grateful to the Laura P. Nichols Foundation for this wonderful contribution,” said Blakely.

At an 11:30 am press conference at Café Africa, Laura P. Nichols Foundation director, Mark Nichols, nephew of the late Laura P. Nichols, said the family wanted to honor Laura by making this contribution. Nichols said he was also inspired by a recent trip to Africa and by his aunt’s love of animals. “Laura Nichols was an animal lover and a strong supporter of the Little Rock Zoo. It was only fitting that we give the Zoo this gift in her memory,” said Nichols.

Upon her death in 2004, Laura Nichols created the Laura P. Nichols Foundation to benefit animal welfare. Lara Nichols was a noted equestrian who raised thoroughbred horses and a lover of the natural world, having been a master gardener for several years.

Construction for the new penguin habitat will begin in the spring of 2007. The Arkansas Zoological Foundation will raise additional funds for the penguin exhibit through the end of 2006 and will immediately begin raising funds for a new cheetah habitat in January of 2007.

A final fundraiser for the new penguin habitat will take place on New Year’s Eve. The Zoo Year’s Eve event will feature cover bank Tragikly White. Dress is black-tie optional and all proceeds benefit the Arkansas Zoological Foundation. Tickets are $100 per person and may be purchased online at or by calling 501-661-7208. The Little Rock Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). Look for the AZA logo whenever you visit a zoo or aquarium as your assurance that you are supporting a facility dedicated to providing excellent care for animals, a great experience for you and a better future for all living things. With its more than 200 accredited members, AZA is a leader in global wildlife conservation and your link to helping animals in their native habitats. For more information, visit 2006/11/gift_to_the_zoo.aspx


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