Brookfield Zoo’s largest private donation will be used to construct a gorilla conservation center and habitats for gorillas, orangutans and monkeys, zoo officials said. 

It also will be used for subsequent areas of a master plan that has yet to be released.

The zoo received a $40 million donation in September, that most that has ever been contributed to the organization. The bulk of the gift, donated anonymously, will be used to construct new habitats that make up a project called “Tropical Forests,” according to zoo director Dr. Michael Adkesson.

Future phases within the upcoming master plan have not yet been announced, although Adkesson said the zoo is looking to grow animal habitat space and to continue as an “exciting destination” for locals in the region.

“We’re looking to develop really dynamic, engaging guest experiences to bring people into the zoo, get them close to our animals where they can make that connection with wildlife, and hopefully hear the conservation messages that we’re sharing about what they can do to help wildlife and wild places,” Adkesson said.

According to a news release, the anonymous donor is “a family with a long history of support” for the Brookfield Zoo, which is managed by the Chicago Zoological Society. The donor has a commitment to wildlife and habitat conservation.

“We are just incredibly grateful for the generosity that they’ve come forward with,” said Adkesson, who also serves as the Chicago Zoological Society’s president and CEO. “It’s exciting for the future of the organization and their faith in what we’re trying to do as an organization and what we’re looking to accomplish over the next 15 years.”

“We are incredibly grateful and incredibly humbled by the enormous gift that was given to the zoo and are hopeful that we will be able to continue to grow that philanthropic support base for the zoo to help us achieve this vision of where we’re headed,” Adkesson added. 

The “Tropical Forests” project is expected to open in spring 2025, while a new master plan for the zoo is expected to be released in early 2024.