A different animal Featured

8:00pm EDT June 25, 2008

Gerald Borin once had to make a decision between taking the CPA exam and working with a bunch of wild animals.

Naturally, he chose the animals. And since then he’s been dedicated to improving the surroundings for those animals — and their visitors — at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.

Since he became general manager at the zoo in 1985, Borin, now the executive director, has helped boost visitor attendance from roughly 700,000 to more than 1.5 million per year. That growth has come from Borin’s unrelenting effort to improve the nation’s third-largest zoo by expanding the park’s property and his creativity in maximizing its capabilities. Today, the zoo sits on more than 580 acres — it was roughly 120 acres in 1986 — and has added a water park and a golf course to attract new people to the animal kingdom inside.

This unique business model is part of Borin’s vision to turn the zoo into a complete vacation destination for families, and the result is a successful structure for the for-profit portions of the business like the water park and golf course as well as consistent funding for the nonprofit portion of the business that supports the wildlife.

Around the time that Borin was making his decision to pursue a life with the wild animals, a zoo was just a zoo. Today, fueled by Borin’s passion, more people than ever see the Columbus Zoo as a vacation and learning destination. It’s a good thing he passed on taking that CPA exam.

HOW TO REACH: Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, (800) MONKEYS or www.columbuszoo.org