It’s with heavy heart to learn of the passing of former Zoo Director Dr. Lester E. Fisher, who passed away at the age of 100 on December 22. He remarkably transformed the notion of what a zoo is during his 30-year tenure as zoo director of Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago, emphasizing the importance of education and conservation while furthering animal welfare and care.

Under his 30-year tenure, Fisher emphasized the importance of educating the public about the role zoos serve in society as conservation powerhouses. Visiting the zoo became an educational journey. He also encouraged animal care staff to further their education and hired experts who had the proper knowledge to provide world-class care.

Chicago has lost one of its greatest giants of humanity, Dr. Lester Fisher. His magnificent life and treasures mean everything to the world and the space of zoology. He was the man with the plan, and he laid the foundation for what Lincoln Park Zoo is today, building the first Great Ape House. It graces his name Dr. Lester E. Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes, known as one of the world’s leading ape behavior and science centers.

Dr. Fisher, who had a affinity for gorillas, spent time studying in Africa. In 1976, the zoo opened the Lester E. Fisher Great Ape House, where it continues to work with lowland gorillas. Under Fisher’s leadership, Lincoln Park Zoo “was home to the largest gorilla population in North America.”

As Zoo Director, Dr. Fisher is also credited with transforming the zoo into a state-of-the-art institution by renovating animal buildings and habitats, improving education around the animals and increasing conservation efforts.

Dr. Fisher worked at Lincoln Park Zoo nearly 45 years, starting in 1947 and later serving as the zoo’s director from 1962 until he retired in 1992. He is noted as the zoo’s first veterinarian.

The HBCU Campaign Fund organization joins the Lincoln Park Zoo family in extending our sincere condolences and thoughts to the Fisher family and friends during this time. We are more than grateful for his remarkable life and the many he has influenced. May Dr. Fisher’s legacy continue to be honored in our hearts going into the New Year, and for Lincoln Park Zoo to continue to carry on with his cherishable contributions forevermore.

With sympathy,

Demetrius Johnson, Jr.
Founder, President & CEO