Dec. 5: ZooLights Security Update

The following communication was distributed to members of the Zoo Neighborhood Council, ANC representatives and community stakeholders.


Over the past few days we’ve received a few messages from neighbors and met with local business owners about their experiences during and following the serious incidents that occurred at the Zoo and in the surrounding community on November 30. I am happy to tell you that every evening since Saturday has been very smooth.

We’re modifying the current ZooLights security plan to be more robust than what we based on historic and projected visitation. Starting this Friday, we will have temporary screening stations similar to what we have implemented over the past several years during spring high visitation times. Screening will include bag checks and/or wanding. Temporary access control protocol is similar to what’s used by U.S. Park Police during large special events, including the annual July 4 celebration on the National Mall. We know that adding temporary measures increases visitor wait time getting into ZooLights and we’re taking measures to engage with our visitors for their best possible experience.

We are communicating with local elected officials and will continue to update the Zoo Neighborhood Council and neighborhood organizations. The Zoo’s Community News web page has and will be consistently updated with new information. Please direct your constituents to that page for udpates.

In addition to these immediate increased security actions for ZooLights through Jan. 1, we are working to enhance the visitor entry experience, security and safety year-round in the future by limiting the number of Zoo entrances. As a reminder, we are extending fencing around the Zoo, adding 4,700 feet to the existing perimeter and animal-containment fencing already installed at the Zoo; construction will begin in mid-December. We will reduce the number of pedestrian entrances from 13 to six.

We understand that these actions and security enhancements do not undo what happened. This is the first major incident we’ve had since ZooLights started 13 years ago. We’re determined that we continue this family-friendly holiday event for our community. We feel confident that our new security measures will deter the handful of individuals who caused the problems.

In addition, and as noted in past updates, to help encourage visitors to take Metro to the Zoo and alleviate traffic, a nonstop DC Circulator Bus operates between Woodley Park Metro Station and the Zoo’s entrance Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Rides are $1; transferring from Metro Rail is .50 cents and from Metro Bus is free. 

We remain committed to open lines of communications with our neighbors. If you have any additional questions or would like to submit feedback, please email You can also stay up-to-date on all the latest animal news and events by signing up for Zoo e-newsletters and following us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

We look forward to celebrating the season at ZooLights and we hope you’ll join us. This weekend, we’re hosting our third-annual GRUMP holiday market featuring the work of local artisans Dec. 6, 7 and 8. We have a ticketed new VR film, Pandamonium, in the Visitor Center Theater which is delighting viewers of all ages.

I appreciate and thank you for your support.

Thank you,

Steve Monfort 
John and Adrienne Mars Director
Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute