Research and quarantine facilities built at Bronx Zoo

(l-r) Jim Breheny, WCS Executive Vice President and General Director of WCS Zoos & Aquarium and Jonathan Little Cohen Director of the Bronx Zoo; Kathleen LaMattina, Collections Manager Bronx Zoo Special Animal Exhibits; Dr. Cristián Samper, WCS President and CEO; Jason Castro, Assistant Supervisor Bronx Zoo Special Animal Exhibits (with Calisto the two-toed sloth); Florence Davis, President, the Starr Foundation; John LaMattina; Mary LaMattina; Jeff Klein, New York State Senate; Ruth Hassell-Thompson, New York State Senate; and Jesus Fernandez representing New York City Council Majority Leader Joel Rivera.
Photo by Julie Larsen Maher of the Bronx Zoo
Julie Larsen Maher

Continuing its quest to examine and protect the world’s animal kingdom, the Bronx Zoo has erected two state-of-the-art buildings at its virtual safari.

Zoo officials along with state senators Jeff Klein and Ruth Hassell-Thompson cut the ceremonial ribbon for the LaMattina Wildlife Ambassador Center, a nearly 11,000-square-foot facility designed to carefully observe zoo wildlife.

The center also features a “meet and greet” area that gives visiting zoologists the chance to closely interact with animals.

Overhead, the center is equipped with translucent roof panels that allow a degree of natural sunlight to enter.

The center is named after philanthropists John and Mary LaMattina of the Starr Foundation, a private grantor that donates nearly $200 million to charitable causes.

“The LaMattina Wildlife Ambassador Center will provide people the opportunity to experience animals up-close as they learn about wildlife and the threats they face around the world,” said Dr. Cristián Samper, newly appointed head of the Bronx Zoo.

Zoo officials also unveiled a new 6,600-square-foot annex to its Wildlife Health Center that medically treats animals like Sukari the lion or the Coquerel sifka before frolicking about the controlled grounds of the landmark zoo.

Veterinary care at the expanded facility will also include the quarantine of sick animals.

Officials ensure that the facility will allow them to promote “zoological veterinary medicine, conservation science and education,” said Jim Breheny, general director of Zoos & Aquarium.

Construction crews began work on the two buildings exactly a year ago, with funding coming from both public and private funds, including Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the New York State Senate and City Council.

Senator Klein allocated $100,000 while Sen. Thompson committed $750,000.

The buildings rest near the Southern Boulevard portion of the zoo.

Reach reporter David Cruz at 718-742-3383 or

David Cruz can be reach via e-mail at or by phone at (718) 742-3383

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