Roger Williams Park Zoo Honors Sophie Danforth

Roger Williams Park Zoo Honors Sophie Danforth

Friday, November 22, 2019
It is with great sadness that the Rhode Island Zoological Society/Roger Williams Park Zoo announces the passing of Sophie Danforth.

In a statement to all staff at Rhode Island Zoological Society/Roger Williams Park Zoo, Dr. Jeremy Goodman, executive director said, “it is fair to say that she had a tremendous impact on all of our lives as there probably would not be a zoo in Providence today if it weren’t for her tremendous compassion and generosity. She single-handedly established the Rhode Island Zoological Society over 50 years ago and has remained involved up until her passing.”

Sophie Danforth channeled her love of wildlife and passion for conservation into her life’s mission.  She founded the Rhode Island Zoological Society, the nonprofit organization that supports and manages the Zoo, in 1962.   Danforth founded the Society as a financial and managerial support to the existing Zoo. Prior to her support exhibits were isolated throughout the Park, the zoo had no admission charge, and no strategy to reliably fund its operations.  In the ensuing years, the Zoo transformed, thanks to Danforth, from a vandal-plagued, under-funded and poorly maintained institution to an internationally known leader in the conservation and environmental movements.  New Englanders consider the Zoo a local treasure. 

In 1960 then superintendent of parks for the City of Providence, Roger Hartman invited Danforth to visit the Zoo.  Once the tour was complete, Hartman asked Danforth what she thought about the Zoo.  Her reaction, according to a 2002 Rhode Island Zoological Society annual report, “No one knows about the Zoo.  Anything would be an improvement.” 

Today, thanks to Danforth’s support the Zoo offers grants to biological conservationist through the Sophie Danforth Conservation Biology Fund (SDCBF), established in 1989.  Funds support conservation programs that protect threatened wildlife and habitats worldwide.  Grantees conduct field studies and other projects that demonstrate a multi-disciplinary approach to biodiversity and ecosystem conservation, and projects that involve in country. 

Sophie Danforth is leaving a lasting legacy to the people of Rhode Island, New England and worldwide for generations to come.  THANK YOU SOPHIE.  We will miss you.